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Mac library designer to be unveiled within weeks

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The Glasgow School of Art will name the design firm expected to replicate the Mackintosh library, which was almost entirely gutted by fire, by the end of the month.

The successful bidder is due to be announced on 31 March after the five hopefuls presented their ideas to an interview panel assembled by the GLA this week.

Those shortlisted for interview [see AJ 08.01/15] were: conservation specialists Avanti and Purcell, local firms Page\Park and LDN Architects. John McAslan + Partners – which restored Mackintosh’s last major commission, at 78 Derngate in Northampton [see AJ 20.11.03] – completes the list of firms vying to take on the restoration of the Grade A-listed building.

Bidders made their final pitch for the project after the school’s director professor Tom Inns told the Scottish press he wanted the library to be restored ‘as closely as possible’ to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original design.

‘There may be 21st century technology integrated into that design but we are looking for the return of the Mackintosh library,’ he told the Herald’s arts correspondent, Phil Miller.

Professor Inns’ intervention appears to have quashed some architects’ hopes that the library’s restoration would allow a significant departure from the original design.

The design brief for the project is understood to have suggested “detailed reconstruction, or a more creative response”, according to the BBC.

Glasgow-based architect Alan Dunlop has argued that the library should not be built as a replica.

‘The best thing would be to have a new idea, something which is worthy of the Mackintosh Building’, he has said.

Julian Harrap, an architect who attended several meetings of experts about the building’s future had previously described calls to build an exact replica of the library as ‘hasty’ and ‘driven by insurers and loss adjusters’ (see AJ 03.12.14).

‘The Mac really has to be bold because the library was nor properly being used in the years running up to the fire’, he told the AJ last year.

“The institution needs a vision for how the library can become, once again, a symbol of Mackintosh, of the city, and the institution and I believe that involves avoiding simplicity and avoiding the idea of a replica.”

Once the successful bidder has been announced, they will be expected to work with the school’s lead architects to refine their designs.

Work on the restoration projects is due to begin within a year.

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