An excellent day out, fit for an art lover
Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park has lots on offer. It’s a great place to take a dog a walk, go for a jog or use any of the sporting facilities (you can even go dry-slope skiing). There are geocaches hidden here and historical remnants too (e.g. the Palace of Art was built for the 1938 Empire Exhibition and the ‘Pope wall’ where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in 1982). It’s also somewhere, where you can look towards the hills and watch the sunset.
But the main visitor attraction is House for an Art Lover. Inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which were not realised within his lifetime. It combines an art gallery and exhibition space, events venue, café, multipurpose artists’ studios and visitor attraction all under one roof.
The history of House for an art lover
Originally designed by Mackintosh in 1901 as an elegant country retreat for a person of taste and culture, construction work began in 1989 and it finally opened in 1996. You might think, why so long? Well, it was actually Mackintosh’s submission for a competition run by German design magazine ‘Zeitschrift Fur Innendekoration’ to design a ‘Haus Eines Kunstfreundes’ or ‘Art Lovers House’.
The rules of the competition stated that only ‘genuinely original modern designs will be considered’ and that ‘it is permissible and even desirable that an Architect and a Decorative Artist of modern tastes develop and submit the design jointly’, so Mackintosh worked on the project with his wife, Margaret Macdonald.
Because the rules included a specification of client requirements such as room sizes, position of staircases, external finishes at a maximum cost, Mackintosh and Macdonald were able to exercise considerable freedom of design expression.
Why it didn’t win the competition but still wowed the critics
However, although Mackintosh’s design was well-received it was actually disqualified as he was late in submitting interior views of the house.
Hermann Muthesius, a leading architecture critic of the day, praised the design saying; ‘…it exhibits an absolutely original character, unlike anything else known. In it, we shall not find a trace of the conventional forms of architecture to which the artist, as far as his present intentions were concerned, was quite indifferent.’
It wasn’t until 1989 that Graham Roxburgh, the Consulting Engineer responsible for restoring Mackintosh interiors in nearby Craigie Hall, had the idea to actually build the House for an Art Lover.
The drawings that Mackintosh produced, although detailed were not actually technical plans from which a house could be built so the plans were a challenge and had to be reviewed by a team of architects, led by Professor Andy MacMillan, then Head of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, which Mackintosh also designed.
Work began on the House later in 1989, once other Mackintosh buildings had been studied for clues in how to actually complete the project. The exterior and much of the interior were completed in 1990, however a recession led to the work going on hold. Work resumed in 1994, revived by Glasgow City Council in association with Glasgow School of Art. The house eventually opened to the public in 1996 and is now one of Glasgow’s most unique visitor attractions so makes for an excellent day out, especially when combined with a visit to the rest of Bellahouston Park.
Entry is £6.50 for adults and £5 for children and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 kids) is £18. Children under 10 are free with an adult. Check the website (link further below) for current opening dates and times.
Art Lover’s Café
If you’re looking for food for an art lover then you can also eat here, before or after your tour, and the food is excellent. Although ‘cafe’ implies somewhere for a sandwich for a cup of tea, afternoon tea or you can have a light bite or restaurant-quality 3-course meal here. Open weekdays from 11am to 3pm midweek and from 10.30am until 4pm at the weekend. If there’s good weather you can also sit outside. We’d recommend booking in advance. You can also takeaway. Afternoon Tea is also available daily and for that, it must be booked a minimum of 24 hours in advance. Afternoon tea collection is even available Wednesday to Sunday but also requires 24 hours’ notice.
Here are some dishes that you can expect in the cafe (note that we visited in winter).
Spicy butternut squash soup, with homemade bread and soft butter, and in the background salmon with capers.
Ox cheek with creamy mash on the left and hake with dill butter on the right
There’s a selection of freshly baked cakes and desserts each day.
House for an Art Lover
10 Dumbreck Road
Art Lover’s Café and the Art Lover’s Shop are open daily from 10am to 5pm.
How to get there
There’s onsite parking and it’s just off junction 23 on the M8.
By public transport, we recommend using Dumbreck train station. It’s a 15-minute walk away. It’s the first stop on Paisley Canal line train from Glasgow Central railway station.
If you want to arrive by underground train then Ibrox subway station is a 20-minute walk.
A selection of buses also stop on Paisley Road West, such as:
- McGill’s Bus Number 38 to Kilbarchan or Spateston (hop on at Union St)
- First Bus Number 9 to Paisley (hop on at Buchanan Bus Station)
- First Bus Number 10 to Darnley via Silverburn (hop on at Union St)
Disclaimer: We given free entry to House for an Art Lover so that we could write about it