The remains of the Glasgow School of Art’s fire-ravaged Mackintosh building are set to be ‘partially dismantled’ following fears that parts of the building look increasingly likely to collapse
Glasgow City Council said the action, expected to begin in the next few days, followed a series of new surveys which ‘revealed more substantial movement in the walls of the building than previously thought’.
A council statement said this meant ‘a sudden collapse of parts of the building is likely, rather than possible’.
A number of experts had already warned that Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 1909 landmark might have to be demolished following the devastating blaze earlier this month – the second major fire at the building in just four years.
Inspections revealed the overall 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.
The council statement said: ‘There is now a requirement to at least partially dismantle sections of the building as a matter of urgency. However, the dangerous nature of the site which includes the Mackintosh building and the O2 ABC is such that it will take around two days to devise a methodology for taking down the south façade, which is the most seriously affected part of the building.
‘The West gable of the Mackintosh building has continued to deteriorate and the East gable has continued to move outwards.
‘It is not possible at this time to say exactly when the work will begin, but it will be as soon as possible.
’While it is not possible to say for certain what the methodology will be, the demolition contractor has been asked to consider beginning at the Eastern side of the site. If this is possible it could make it more likely that we will be able to make the East wall safe and allow access to residents in Dalhousie Street.’
The council said that with the building remaining unstable there was still a risk of falling bricks ‘or stone moving quickly downhill and into the buildings on Sauchiehall Street’.
Its head of building control Raymond Barlow said: ‘This building has undergone substantial stress in recent days. With each passing day, a sudden collapse becomes more likely. It has become urgent that we take down the south façade. As the process begins it will be likely that the other walls will also need to be reduced.
This building has undergone substantial stress in recent days
‘We do not know what effect this will have on the rest of the building, so I have to be clear: this site remains dangerous and is becoming more dangerous. It is particularly important that people observe the cordon which remains in place.’
Glasgow-based architect Alan Dunlop said: ‘It was clear to me on visiting the site around the Mac and watching firemen pumping gallons of water from the River Clyde into the destroyed interior that the remaining stone shell would also be in a very damaged state that it could not recover from.
‘It is no surprise to me therefore that this news is breaking. It is what I expected.’
Paul Sweeney, Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow North East, added: ’Given the intensity of the fire and the effect this heat has had on the integrity of the stonework it was always expected that partial deconstruction and stabilisation of parts of the outer walls would be necessary.
“Indeed when I visited the site on the night after the fire, I saw movement in sections of the facade – particularly the south side and north east sides.
’This deconstruction will be done in a controlled and forensic way’
’This deconstruction will be done in a controlled and forensic way and will enable the structure to be consolidated and stabilised for faithful reconstruction and restoration using accurate digital scan records.’
Comment from the Glasgow School of Art:
The detailed visual assessment shows that damage to the Mackintosh Building is significantly greater than had initially been anticipated from ground visual assessment and the data from the drone and scanning footage which were undertaken last week.
The Glasgow School of Art’s site contractor Reigart, together with its structural engineer, David Narro Associates, are using all this information to develop a plan of works to achieve structural stability of the building. This will be agreed with Historic Environment Scotland and Glasgow City Council Building Control. All parties are working in close collaboration to allow plans to be developed and agreed as quickly as possible.
The areas of significant concern are the east elevation, the west elevation and sections of the south elevation
The areas of significant concern are the east elevation, the west elevation and sections of the south elevation. The plan of works will involve Reigart undertaking extensive down-takings and potential structural bracing.
Due to the condition of the Mackintosh Building, this work will be undertaken in a highly controlled way to minimise any potential risk of failure and be sufficient to achieve structural stability of the Mackintosh Building.
The aim of the Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow City Council will be to return normal access for residents and businesses as soon as possible.