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Scottish designer who blazed the way for Rennie Macintosh's story to be told

17 March 2011

A Scottish designer who blazed the way for Charles Rennie MacIntosh and the famous ‘Glasgow Style’ is to be the subject of a conference in Glasgow later this month.

Daniel Cottier, who now lends his name to Cottier’s bar and restaurant in Glasgow’s West End was one of the most influential designers of his day internationally, yet until now his story has remained relatively untold at home.

Cottier was part of a movement which has been referred to as the “First Glasgow School’. The movement had a far reaching influence beyond Scotland, particularly in the USA, and Australia yet in recent history has been overshadowed by the generation of talented designers who followed known as the ‘Glasgow Style’.

His work will be the subject of a conference in Glasgow on the 23rd March and a new book which looks at his life, work and influence within the context of the only surviving of three church interiors he famously decorated in 1860s Glasgow – William Leiper’s Dowanhill Church– now Cottier’s bar and restaurant.

Both the book and the conference will follow Cottier’s journey –from Glasgow to London and then to Australia and America where he is credited with helping to establish the Aesthetic Movement – influencing contemporaries including Louis Comfort Tiffany - the first Design Director for Tiffany and Co and the creator of the famous Tiffany lamp. Emphasis will also be placed on the restoration work at Cottier’s, which saw the venue sympathetically converted into a restaurant, bar and theatre in 1992.  

The resurgence of interest in Cottier has been welcomed by Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop.

“Cottier was part of a movement that forms a largely hidden part of Glasgow’s outstanding Victorian heritage and had an undoubted influence on those that were to come.

“But he also played a hugely important role internationally in cementing Glasgow as a place of style, innovation and craftmanship in design terms on the global stage.

“It is only fitting that his contribution should be recognised in such a way – both through the conference and the accompanying book, so that his story can be shared and recognised by future generations.”

The conference is being organised by Historic Scotland in partnership with the Four Acres Charitable Trust. The Trust was gifted the building for just £1 when it ceased to operate as a church in 1984. It then began the task of looking at ways to restore the building to bring it back into sympathetic re-use.

Both organisations have worked closely on the restoration of the building which saw it open to the public as Cottier’s restaurant, bar and a temporary theatre in 1992, which was in many ways a blueprint for similar projects that followed. The building has been restored on a staged basis and the next phase of funding and conservation work is about to start as a new season of  theatre performance gets underway. Along with Historic Scotland the project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Glasgow City Council, The Architectural Heritage Fund and Charity Bank.

David Robertson, Project Director at the Four Acres Trust said;

“In its day the building was a leading example of decorative church architecture in Europe, and a huge part of this was Cottier’s boldly coloured interior.

“We have completed several phases of work, which have included the restoration of the magnificent stained glass windows and the organ and we are now working with Historic Scotland to bring back as much of the original artwork as possible.

“We have been able to start work uncovering part of Cottier’s original painted ceiling, which is one of the most exciting parts of the project.

“By its very nature this is a time consuming process, as the ceiling was covered over first in the 1930’s, with varnish and then in the 1960’s with paint, and it will take a lot of skilled craftwork to carefully bring his original artwork though.

“The restoration of this hugely important part of the Cottier story will continue after the re-opening, allowing visitors to the theatre to share the experience.”

For information on the conference and to enquire about delegate places please call 0131 668 8683.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

For further information

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858