Patricia Douglas, who died in 2016, was a housewife at a loose end when a part-time job ignited a passion for the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. While working at the New Glasgow Society her initial interest in Mackintosh burgeoned into a ceaseless quest to promote and protect his legacy, resulting in an MBE for services to preserving his architecture. Becoming the dynamic Honorary Secretary and, later, Director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, now at Glasgow's Mackintosh Queen’s Cross Church, she typically worked 13-hour days as a volunteer. Liaising with fellow enthusiasts and scholars worldwide, helping to deliver important initiatives highlighting the designer's achievements and forming a supportive network for his legacy.
Patricia’s connection with 78 Derngate started as early as the 1970s and she was an obvious choice to become a Trustee when the Charity was formed in 1998. As a tribute to Patricia her family commissioned a competition for students at Glasgow College to design and make a bench for the garden at 78. Greig Dunbar, the winning student writes: Patricia Douglas worked tirelessly to preserve many of Mackintosh's works, so when tasked with designing a memorial bench for her it was easy to draw inspiration from Derngate as it is quite a special example, and I think Patricia must have thought so, too. While researching the rooms and styles I found the main room very striking and loved the unforgettable first impression it leaves on you and I knew then that I wanted to include the focus- grabbing lattice wall into my design somehow.
My main idea with the design of the bench was to bring elements from other parts of the house to the outside and tie the bench to the rest of the building while keeping its style as close to Mackintosh's as I could. This concept quickly developed into a high, straight back and a simple clean design, with the lattice work forming the back and the long parallel lines forming the seat. Using the design of the planter from the front of the building to create a planter to go alongside the bench afforded the opportunity to mirror one of the first visually impactful sights that can be seen of the house.
As Mackintosh's work was the main inspiration for the project, oak had seemed the perfect material to use initially, but due to the outdoor location of the bench and the nature of the British weather it seemed a better idea to look to a more resilient timber, so iroko was chosen. This is African hardwood which is perfect for outdoors and is incredibly resilient. The stained glass look was achieved using an extremely hard wearing Perspex, so hopefully it will last a very long time. Each element was hand built in my small workshop and with a bit of help from some friends, the bench came together and the result is one of which I am genuinely proud!
It was quite an honour to make a small memorial for Patricia and to be allowed to incorporate Mackintosh's designs was a rare treat that few people get and I would like to extend my thanks to the Douglas Family and to 78 Derngate for the experience.
Photo of Patricia Douglas courtesy: Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society