RefurbishmentExtension in brick

Mackintosh at the Willow, Glasgow

The £7 million restoration and extension of Glasgow’s iconic Willow Tea Rooms, included the construction of a new modern rear elevation. The result was eye-catching architecture that added a contemporary dynamic to a traditional building originally designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
By Simpson & Brown Architects - Adrian Brown
Photos C/o Ibstock/Simpson & Brown

08 February 2021

White Sawtooth at its best
Above: White Sawtooth at its best

The £7 million restoration and extension of Glasgow’s iconic Willow Tea Rooms, included the construction of a new modern rear elevation. The result was eye-catching architecture that added a contemporary dynamic to a traditional building originally designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Located in the heart of Glasgow, in Sauchiehall Street, the Willow Team Rooms is one of the city’s most famous buildings. Designed by Mackintosh for entrepreneur Kate Cranston in 1903, the buildings required sensitive restoration that celebrated the building’s past whilst also modernising the facility.

The project at the rear involved the development of a new state of the art visitor, educational and exhibition centre adjacent to the original building. This double height rear extension incorporates a shop, exhibition space, dining room, roof terrace, auditorium, and conference suite.

Edinburgh-based architects Simpson and Brown were appointed as lead design consultants, beating international competition to secure the contract. Their vision was to take the team rooms back to their celebrated past but also to “take them forward in time to create a unique architectural and design experience”.

Restoring the splendour of the original building whilst adding a modern aesthetic was a considerable challenge. The completed building immaculately combines the old and the new, with the impressive modern extension providing a perfect yet blended contrast to the existing Mackintosh design at the front.

Whilst the primary facade of the building has been beautifully renovated, it is the rear extension in Sauchiehall Lane that makes a bold new architectural statement. The arresting contemporary design is based on creative brickwork with sawtooth and honeycomb design features to the fore.

The combination of protruding bricks and missing bricks, provided by Ibstock, creates a distinctive aesthetic that brings variety and character to the building. It also blends fawlessly with the existing building due to the Mackintosh echoes inherent in honeycomb design.

The choice of brick also makes the rear extension stand out. St Joris White Glazed bricks were selected specifcally for their modern look. Unlike matt white bricks, the St Joris product, provides an authentic sheen and reflects light effectively in the narrow confnes of the lane.