Fears are growing that the remains of the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art will have to be pulled down, according to a number of industry experts
Speaking to the BBC, Billy Hare, a professor of construction management at Glasgow Caledonian University, said there was a ‘growing consensus’ that Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 landmark might have to be demolished following the devastating blaze on Friday night.
It is understood the damage caused by the fire was significantly worse than the May 2014 blaze, when firefighters managed to save 90 per cent of the Art Nouveau masterpiece.
A £35 million restoration job to repair the damage from that fire, overseen by Page/Park and contractor Kier, had been nearing completion.
Hare compared Friday’s Mac fire with a recent incident in nearby Sauchiehall Street, where a fire in the roof of a building housing Victoria’s nightclub led to the building being subsequently flattened. ‘At that stage, the decision was taken fairly quickly to demolish that building,’ he told BBC Scotland.
‘However, the Mac being such a globally recognised building of significance, this would probably have a bit more deliberation before they come to that decision.
‘But the consensus is beginning to grow over the last 24 hours that that might very well be the case.’
Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop agreed: ‘I believe the building has gone,’ he said. ‘I cannot see it being brought back to life at all. The whole interior is gutted and millions of gallons of water, pumped up from the Clyde were needed to put the fire out, which no doubt will have damaged the masonry shell still standing.
‘There will be calls to rebuild, of course, and every nut and bolt, nook and cranny has been digitised and recorded by GSA after the 2014 fire, so the information exists to construct an exact copy. But it will be a replica of a Mackintosh building not a working art school with over 100 years of history, that you breathed in every time you entered the building.
‘Mackintosh was an innovator, he was not a copyist. He would have rebuilt new, not replicated. Calls to rebuild a replica should be resisted.’
However, Peter Drummond of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland said that there should not be a rush to pull down what remains – even though it is understood 90 per cent of the interior has been lost and that question marks remain over the stability of the external walls.
Everything should be done to try and save what is left of this iconic site
He told the AJ: ‘The art school is one of a handful of modern buildings in Scotland of truly international importance. It would an absolute tragedy if the remaining fabric was to be lost. Everything should be done to try and save what is left of this iconic site.’
It emerged at the weekend that a new sprinkler system being installed as part of the building’s restoration was not yet operational.
The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) has said it understood new automatic sprinklers had ‘not yet been fully fitted’.
A spokesperson added: ‘It should be realised that sprinklers can be fitted in buildings throughout construction on a temporary basis, as there is a considerable risk from fire during this period.’
Asked about the fitting of sprinklers, the GSA said that ‘as is standard practice for construction, Kier had control of the site’.
A spokesperson for Kier said: ’Kier has been working with the Glasgow School of Art since 2016 on the restoration of the Mackintosh building and so we share the devastation felt by the School and the wider public at this time.
’We are working closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in their investigation and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst an investigation is ongoing.’
Tony Barton, chairman of Donald Insall Associates
There are noises coming from my home city that the Glasgow School of Art may be beyond reconstruction. No it is not. The Mackintosh must be rebuilt and not only because we have the skills and technology to enact an authentic rebuild.
This is not a museum. Anyone who visited the Art School before the fire, particularly at the time of its end of year show, would see that this is a living, working entity of creative endeavour in one of Europe’s most beautiful buildings. That living heart beats on and future artists should not be denied this legacy.
As designers we respect, admire and enjoy Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s skill and craft. And, we have his design. It exists. The building just has to be crafted to his design with care, quality and thorough attention to details. It is the design that is the key to this argument against giving up on the GSA. Because of it, there is no need for conjecture, guess work or fudge. The skills exist in the Page and Park-led team to start again and give the design back to us in its built form.
This is one building and one of very few that must be rebuilt
Emotion is a third vital element here. As an exiled Glaswegian of many years, the shock and pain on Saturday morning was very deeply felt, so imagine if you can how Glasgow felt and is still feeling. The Mackintosh is a shining example of the rich vein of culture that runs through Glasgow life, through wealth and poverty, class and geography.
It is a resilient place but without this rightly celebrated European masterpiece, Glasgow is a lesser place, physically, emotionally and intellectually.
So put aside fears of pastiche and eschew philosophical misgivings. This is one building and one of very few that must be rebuilt. Glasgow, Scotland, Europe demand it.
THREAD on #GlasgowSchoolofArt. I visited the site with @scotfire_glasgo last night, who have done an incredible job to contain a fire that was totally out of control on their arrival and also collapsed the timber clad roof of the neighbouring ABC venue, which dates back to 1875. pic.twitter.com/VyVHypgWTC— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
ABC roof collapse is visible here. The internal space of the library has been gutted. My understanding is much of the detailed restored carpentry and joinery work is off site. The walls here look solid but the pediment at the top is unsupported - it was hand dismantled last time. pic.twitter.com/cnGXvD5ghg— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
1909 extension. The newly restored 'Hen Run' at the top is once again a tangled mess of charred timber and distorted steel joists. The main structural joists below appear solid though and outer walls look stable here. The external scaffolding is helping to tie the structure too. pic.twitter.com/qZAlPrfa0T— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
Looking onto the main Renfrew Street facade of the 1909 extension. The entire interior space of the building is completely gutted. The wallheads here look like they are still supported by main reinforced steel frame, tieing it back into the building. No obvious signs of movement. pic.twitter.com/yoVlnMrI34— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
Steven Holl's 2014 Reid Building opposite the Mack has had several of its geometric matte-glass exterior panels shatter with the heat from the fire. This gives a good indication of just how intense the fire was at its height. pic.twitter.com/S6NCB8ynXc— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
Moving to the 1899 eastern wing of the building, the intensity of the fire appears to be at its worst here. The heat has baked and fragmented the sandstone around the large studio windows and the heavy steel lintels above look distorted. The wallhead is still tied back though. pic.twitter.com/FpPUKj9wEX— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
The most visibly worrying aspect on the 1899 side of the building is the corner at the north-east gable, where there is visible movement and spalling of the stonework at the wallhead. Also there's significant fracturing of the stone around the windows where the heat has baked it. pic.twitter.com/P9f4p5UYmn— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018
Another view of the north-east corner which looks to have visibly moved outwards east at the wallhead, with a void of around 3-4 inches between the stone. The steel lintels above the windows are distorted too. The interior space and only original part of the 'Hen Run' is gutted. pic.twitter.com/xakvu9xNGH— Paul Sweeney MP (@PaulJSweeney) June 17, 2018