Mac fire update: library destroyed but most of building saved
Firefighters tackling the blaze at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Grade A-listed Mackintosh Building in Glasgow say most of the building and its contents have been saved from destruction
According to a statement released by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at 9.17pm on Friday night (23 May), up to ‘90 per cent of the structure’ remained ‘viable’ adding that firefighters had also managed to protect ‘70 per cent of the contents’.
However the ‘iconic and unique’ Mackintosh library has been destroyed - a loss devastated Glasgow School of Art (GSA) board chairwoman Muriel Gray described as ‘an enormous blow’.
Fire crews were called to the iconic building at the Glasgow School of Art just before 1pm on Friday after a fire began in the basement. All students were evacuated around 12.20pm, however the fire raged throughout the day.
According to local reports eyewitnesses saw ‘a large plume of smoke gathering over the city centre as the fire took hold’ and windows were blown out.
Assistant Chief Officer Dave Boyle of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘Crews have been working absolutely flat out throughout this very challenging incident and it is clear their effort and skill has saved this treasured building and many of the items it housed.
‘While the priority from the outset was to save life we have also been working closely with GSA staff to ensure firefighters conducted an effective salvage operation.
‘We are of course very conscious the Mackintosh is a world renowned building that is a key feature of this great city, and that the artworks it stores are not only valuable but also cherished. We are acutely aware this period is the culmination of years of endeavour for students and that their irreplaceable work is inside the Mackintosh.’
It is understood an ‘enhanced, bespoke fire suppression system’ was due to be installed in the coming months.
A spokeswoman for the GSA said: ‘It’s a tragic irony that this was due to be completed as part of the summer works programme after the degree show.’
Speaking on Friday Henry McKeown, project lead at JM Architects which worked alongside Stephen Holl on the Reid Building opposite the fire-ravaged Mac, said: ‘We are totally devastated. it is unbelievable; especially after Thursday night’s news [winning AJ100 Building of the Year].
‘There is a frenzy of tweeting at the moment in the architectural community; no one can quite believe it.’
McKeown, whose wife teaches at the school, said the building would be ‘like a tinder box’ as students prepared for their end of year degree show.
‘I don’t want to be over sensational but it looks like the fire has taken a real hold on the building. With all the paint and materials there it will be like a tinder box. It looks like a real tragedy is unfolding,’ he said.
Statement from GSA board chairwoman Muriel Gray
RIAS President, Iain Connelly: ‘The value of this building goes well beyond Glasgow or even Scotland. It is a work of architectural heritage of world renown and its influence on 20th century architecture is immeasurable. Scotland has seen the loss of an international treasure which reflects the genius of one of our greatest ever architects and the whole of the architectural profession in Scotland will, I am sure, join with me in sending out a message to the students and staff of the School and all those who have been associated with this building over the decades, a message of sorrow and commiseration at this terrible, terrible news. It is too early to talk about what happens now, but the architectural profession in Scotland will do anything it can to help in any way.”
RIBA President, Stephen Hodder: ‘The most important work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an architect of international significance, Glasgow School of Art is held in the highest regard by architects and the public alike - it was rightly judged to be the best building of the past 175 years, in a nationwide poll run by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
‘Damage to a building of such immense significance and uniqueness is an international tragedy. It is irreplaceable.
‘The RIBA joins our colleagues in Scotland in sending out a message to the students, staff of the School and all those who have been associated with this building over the decades, a message of sorrow and commiseration at this terrible, terrible news. It is too early to talk about what happens now, but the Institute will do anything it can to help in any way.’
A way must be found faithfully to restore the Glasgow School of Art. Declaration of intent at June’s Venice Biennale? #saveGSofA
— RIBA Journal (@RIBAJ) May 23, 2014
Just heard Mackintosh’s masterwork Glasgow School of Art on fire. Damage to a building of such importance is an international tragedy
— Stephen Hodder (@HodderPRIBA) May 23, 2014
Thoughts with staff & students at @GSofA – awful to see destruction of this iconic building and students work (AA)
— FM Alex Salmond (@AlexSalmond) May 23, 2014
This can’t happen. We can’t lose Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art. It’s unthinkable.
— Hugh Pearman (@hughpearman) May 23, 2014
There has been a major incident at the GSA, the fire service are in attendance. Updates to follow.
— Glasgow School Art (@GSofA) May 23, 2014