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Mac building is ‘saveable’, GSA and council claim


The remains of the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art could yet be saved from demolition, according to both the school’s director and the city council

Following the devastating blaze on Friday night (15 June ) many experts had feared Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 landmark, which was part way through a £35 million Page/Park-led restoration following an earlier fire in 2014, would have to be flattened.

Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop said: ‘I believe the building has gone. I cannot see it being brought back to life at all. The whole interior is gutted.’

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service had also warned there had been ‘exceptionally significant’ damage to all parts of the building.

However, speaking to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council suggested the burned-out shell of the globally significant Arts and Crafts masterpiece could yet be rescued. 

‘The external fabric of the building appears to be saveable except for the eastern gable, which appears to have shifted slightly,’ he said. ‘This is because the walls are tied together by the roof.

‘There is a consensus emerging that the intention of the building control people, building control officers, Historic Environment Scotland people and the art school is to save the building.

‘Right now, people are operating on the understanding it will be saveable.’

Tom Inns, director of The Glasgow School of Art, has also thrown his weight behind the building being saved ‘in some form’.

Earlier today Inns told BBC Scotland: ’It can be rebuilt. We’ve got very close to rebuilding it from the previous fire.

’We’ve got a very experienced team now that understands this building intimately.’

‘We’re going to have to stabilise the building’

He added: ’But rebuilding it is going to be a very, very complex process so we’re going to have to stabilise the building – get it to the point of stabilisation - and then we’re going to have to think very carefully about what the strategy for that might be moving forward. And that’s something we’re going to have to discuss with all those people who have an interest in the building.’

Meanwhile, questions continue to be asked about why a new sprinkler system being installed as part of the building’s restoration was not operational.

The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) has said it understood new automatic sprinklers had ‘not yet been fully fitted’.

Four years ago, in the wake of the first fire which destroyed the Mackintosh library, it emerged that a new fire suppression system which could have significantly reduced the damage had been ‘97 per cent ready’ when tragedy struck.

Work on the system had begun in 2013 and almost all the pipework had been installed. But installation of the system had stalled when asbestos was found in the foyer. The final fitting of tanks and pumps had been scheduled to complete once students’ end-of-year shows had finished – but that work was never completed.

Glasgow city centre fire 648x486

Glasgow city centre fire 648x486

Contractor Kier, which had been working on the restoration project, insisted a fire strategy had been in place for the renovation and reconstruction work.

A Kier spokesperson said: ‘An agreed fire-safety strategy was implemented for the build phase of the Mackintosh restoration project, which combined measures for the protection of all those entering the site to work and to alert the authorities in the event of an outbreak of fire.

‘These included a smoke and heat detection system and regular evacuation tests as well as 24-hour, 7 days a week security and fire warden patrols by a team of three guards, originally appointed by the client after the 2014 fire and subsequently by Kier. We continue to work with and support Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and our client as they determine the next steps for the Mackintosh building and site.

‘We have a passionate team of local construction and craftspeople, skilled conservators, supply chain and engineering specialists who have worked incredibly hard on this iconic landmark, and together we are all keen to do whatever we can to help moving forward.’


Readers' comments (5)

  • Of course the 'Mac' should be saved, however much 'reconstruction' is required. It is irreplaceable - no replacement/substitution however well designed can possibly justify its removal. If Dresden's monuments including the Frauenkirche, and Warsaw's likewise, can be reconstructed then Glasgow's iconic Art School must similarly rise again from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.

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  • Geoff Williams

    This fire could have an electrical cable origin. It will be interesting to discover the actual cause after the current investigations have been completed. fire suppression systems are only effective subject to the security of the electrical supply. Much depends on the choice of cable and in the light of past problems one would have thought that a Mineral insulated fireproof cable, type MICC, would be considered in all historic buildings of the this type of important edifice. Alternative, fire resisting cables will burn and assist in the spread of the fire. Obviously, there are lessons to be learned.

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  • 'Archeps' is surely right - no matter what degree of damage, no matter whether the ruins have to be demolished, all the information is available to reconstruct this masterpiece - and if the debate last time about 'reinterpreting' Mackintosh's design has to be ploughed through all over again, I just hope that all those who want to mess with the original design can show some humility and refrain from the temptation of thinking that they're better than Mackintosh.
    It was his design; the loss should be limited to that of the original building, which was of such quality that it should be rebuilt as designed, except for upgrades to the services - and, of course, fire safety precautions. If this even means re-opening the original quarry to source the same stone, so be it.

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  • So, a "Professor of Construction Management", predictably concerned first and foremost with money, guesses rebuilding would "...cost £100mill.", and then; "...it would be a blank cheque". Really? Has he not heard of good specifying and detailed schedules of work from the original drawings, fully costed, Contracted and monitored? The better question would be, was the building adequately insured, and if not, why not?

    As for 'Replica', 'Pastiche' and all the other nonsense peddled in the interests of building something 'new', consider whether art is the imagination, the medium or the artifact.

    Painting, sculpture, poetry all come direct from the artist's hand, and if destroyed cannot be re-made. But music and architecture have in common that the imagination is embodied in the medium, the score or the drawings, and do not come alive - or the work of art - until either played or built, usually by others. No-one calls out 'Replica' or 'Pastiche' if an ancient score is found and played/interpreted, so kindly play it again Sam, to the original score, without putting a single note wrong...

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  • I tried to visit the GSA one day on the off chance while in Glasgow and was turned away. There must be so many of us who still want to visit this iconic masterpiece, to absorb it and learn from it. It is without doubt one of those rare buildings that should be reconstructed so we can all appreciate its stature within our culture. A beautifully crafted replica - with a few additional safety precautions - will be fine thanks!

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