Mackintosh at the Willow

Design of world-class visitor attraction for Mackintosh at the Willow, spanning two floors and adjoining the original Willow Tea Rooms. The interpretive exhibition tells the story of the pioneering partnership of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his most loyal patron, Miss Catherine Cranston, set against the context of late Victorian and Edwardian Glasgow. The displays are designed to engage a wide range of visitors from local people to specialist interest visitors, from school groups and families to international audiences.


The Willow Teamrooms Trust


Interpretation Masterplan
Support for NLHF application
Research and Copywriting
Exhibition Design
Graphic Design
Digital Strategy and Design
Interactive Design
Shop Design
Design of Print and Publications
Project Management

Scottish Design Awards
Finalist, 2019

RIBA Awards
Finalist, 2019

RIAS Awards
Project of the Year, 2019

RICS Awards
Building Conservation Winner, 2019

RIBA Regional Awards
Client of the Year, 2019

UK’s Best Building
Special Commendation, 2019

Lux Magazine Awards
Best Local Heritage Education Experience, 2019


We developed the Visitor Centre to complement and orientate visitors to the wider Mackintosh offer in and around Glasgow. As the only Mackintosh-designed tearoom in operation, Mackintosh at the Willow provides insight both into Mackintosh’s original intentions for the building and Miss Cranston’s unique role in early 20th century Glasgow. The exhibition is over two floors, and light levels increase and finishes change from darker to lighter treatments as the visitor transitions from Victorian Glasgow through to the sparkling modernity of The Willow on first floor, where whitewashed timber creates an envelope to hold the displays.

Conservation and display

The exhibition encourages visitors to explore the design, architecture, decoration and commissioning of the Willow Tea Rooms, and the roles of both Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald. Focusing on the Salon de Luxe – the glittering jewel at the heart of the building – we displayed Mackintosh’s original leaded glass doors in a minimal floor-to-ceiling display case. Visitors can view the doors from both sides while listening to audio interpretation. The displays throughout incorporate films with experts, tactile and handling material, replica pieces and hands-on interactives.

“Consistent creativity and attention to detail has resulted in an exhibition that is engaging, innovative and informative.”

Jean Sinclair, Chief Executive, Willow Tea Rooms Trust

Visitor engagement

Engaging visitors through participation and interactivity was key to informal learning. We used a variety of media to tell the story of Mackintosh and Miss Cranston, from the large wall of digital ‘dinner plates’ with film and motion graphics which sets the scene for Glasgow at the turn of the 20th century to digital interactives where visitors can digitally blend their own tea based on original recipes from the 1890s. A specially-commissioned film explores Mackintosh’s design of The Willow, bringing to life his original drawings for the building. We provided dressing up opportunities and commissioned reproduction furniture, including the striking yellow settle designed by Mackintosh for The Willow in 1917, where visitors can sit to have their photo taken.

“Studioarc’s experience and expertise has been instrumental in the successful delivery of our world-class visitor centre for the original Willow Tearooms building.”

Jean Sinclair, Chief Executive, Willow Tea Rooms Trust

“Interactive exhibits brought 1890-1910 Glasgow to life and gave depth and context to the collaboration between the Mackintoshes and Miss Cranston.”

Visitor Review

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