Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We use cookies to personalise your experience; learn more in our Privacy and Cookie Policy. You can opt out of some cookies by adjusting your browser settings; see the cookie policy for details. By using this site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Mac fire update: library destroyed but most of building saved

  • Comment

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.’

Glasgow School of Art fire, filmed by Paul Stallan

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

‘After a sobering tour and inspection of the interior of the Mackintosh along with Professor Tom Inns with two expert colleagues today we have a much clearer idea of what the situation is.
‘Bad news first is that we have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh library. This is an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated.
‘But the most amazing, almost miraculous news is that the majority of the building is still intact. Due to one of the most astonishingly intelligent and professional pieces of strategy by the fire services, they succeeded in protecting the vast majority of the building, apparently by forming a human wall of fire-fighters up the west end of the main staircase and containing the fire.
‘Also after ensuring no lives were in peril they displayed an impressive understanding of the precious nature of the building, and due to their careful and meticulous handling of each developing situation the damage is considerably less than we dreaded. We have run out of words with which to thank them, but the school has most certainly gained a new gallery of heroes.
‘Tragically many students have lost some or all of their work, but many others have had theirs preserved, and curators and academic staff can expect to be allowed to enter the building in the next few days to try and assess what can be salvaged.
‘The joy that our archives are safe combines with the delight in seeing most of our beloved building bruised and battered but most certainly not destroyed.
‘As for the library, Mackintosh was not famous for working in precious materials. It was his vision that was precious and we are confident that we can recreate what was lost as faithfully as possible.
Our main concern right now is the welfare of the students and the impending graduation and everyone is working hard together to achieve the best outcome for all.’

Mackintosh Museum survives.jpg

Source: GSA

Mackintosh Museum survives



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.’

  • Mackintosh fire May 2014

    Mac fire update: library destroyed but most of building saved

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.