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Mac will be rebuilt, says Glasgow School of Art director

Mac fire june 2018 peter drummond web

The Glasgow School of Art’s fire-ravaged Mackintosh building will be rebuilt, its director has confirmed 

The commitment from Tom Inns ends weeks of speculation over the future of the building after experts said they feared the second blaze had damaged the 110-year-old structure beyond repair.

‘We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building’, he told the Guardian, in his first interview since the fire. ‘There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building.’

Industry experts said this week the GSA had questions to answer over its oversight role as well as the management of the site by Keir Construction, the contractors overseeing the Mac’s restoration following the earlier 2014 fire.

But while acknowledging there was ‘anger and frustration’, Innes said he was confident that questions of how the school could have suffered a second fire would be answered by a Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation.

Inns also said that the rebuild costs would be covered by insurance and that assurances from Kier that an adequate fire safety strategy was in place had been ‘professionally checked’ by the art school.

The commitment from the GSA director came as engineers began the task of dismantling unsafe sections of the building, an operation expected to last eight weeks.

Dominic Echlin, a structural engineer from David Narro Associates who is leading the project to forensically take down the remains of the Grade A-listed landmark, said the Mac was in a dangerous condition.

‘The primary aim of the initial works is to make the building safe and structurally stable. It is important to understand that our agreed approach is the safest way to dismantle the dangerous elements of the building and, importantly, ensure there is no damage to nearby properties or risk to those working on site.’

The ‘controlled dismantling’ of the damaged masonry and brickwork, to be carried out by contractor Reigart, will be undertaken brick by brick, with heavier stonework removed using crane hoists before being stored off site. 

The Mac was due to reopen next year after a £35 million Page/Park-led restoration following the previous blaze which destroyed around a third of the building.

The latest fire destroyed much of the restoration work, although Inns also confirmed that around half of the fixtures and fittings from the Mackintosh library were in storage at the time.

For weeks since the June 15 fire, a fierce debate has raged over the building’s future with suggestions ranging from a competition for an entirely new piece of architecture to leaving its charred ruins to stand as a symbol of the ‘precariousness of history’.  


Readers' comments (5)

  • Excellent. A symphony is to be performed from the original score, and let no-one play a wrong note.

    What a fine counterpoint it will remain to the overbearing yet utterly forgettable naked emperor across the road, which should rightly be compared to an insistently repetitive Michael Nyman piece coming from and going to nowhere, like all the other inumerable rectangles filled with lesser rectangles we are now expected to admire as new urban architecture. The art in architecture is in the architect's mind as commited to paper. Therefore building it again cannot be regarded as pastiche (properly translated as 'cut & paste'); and to all those who use 'pastiche' as a pejorative term, let's never forget Palladio was among the finest pasticheurs of all time and that the 60's high-tech boys now have more pasticheurs following them than anyone else. A new Renaissance anyone?

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  • "How absurd it is to see modern churches, theatres, banks, museums, exchanges, municipal buildings art galleries etc made in imitation of Greek temples."

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh

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  • Alan is missing my point, and I happen to agree with Mackintosh's sentiment and the eventually bankrupt Victorian 'Style Wars'. My suspicion though is that when Mackintosh criticised the exact rebuilding of St Mark's Campinile (following William Morris in calling for new work to be fashioned in the spirit of the times it is created in) he could not have foreseen the voiceless sterility that modern materials and software-driven drawings would produce. Public sentiment also has as much validity as architects' sometime arrogant assertion that only they have right on their side.

    By rennaissance I mean a renewal of the art of making beautiful buildings as opposed to merely gridding up a quintessentially unsustainable facade that, in my humble opinion, will become land-fill long before anything by Mackintosh is deliberately destroyed.

    I am pleased to see Alan has noted elsewhere that the Holl building is now seen as a reason not to replace Mackintosh's design. One could stand in the street for hours studying the extraordinarily creative power and delicacy of the Mac, and only minutes to see all there is to see of the overscaled and bland Holl building. How sad to see how much ink is wasted on critical essays attempting to make such reductionist buildings of more than fleeting interest.

    So let me say more clearly, what Mackintosh committed to paper has close parallels with, say, Faure's Requiem score, and building 'The Mac' again is no different from yet another performance of Beethoven's sixth – only the conductor will be different. A fine conductor is already to hand with experience of the Library restoration, and the orchestra of skilled craftsmen and women exists everywhere waiting only to show how good they can be, so let's rejoice that such a masterpiece will continue to exist.

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  • I don't believe I'm missing your point at all Robert, I just don't agree with you. A study of Mackintosh's writing, his lecture notes, Italy tour and his letters to his mentor Francis Newberry make his opinions and quest for innovation in architecture quite clear:

    "All great and living architecture has been the direct expression of the needs and beliefs of man at the time of its creation, and how if we would have great architecture created this should still be so."

    "A fundamental responsibility for architects was the task of clothing in grace and beauty the new forms and conditions that modern developments of life- social- commercial and religious insist upon"
    Charles Rennie Mackintosh

    Consequently, I do not believe he would support the notion of a replication, no matter the conductor.

    John Byrne the renowned playwright, artist and one of the Mac's most famous alumni said today that school had “lost its soul”. " “I really don’t care if they rebuild it or not – the soul of the art school is completely gone, never to return.”

    I agree, and have simply argued that the "spirit" of Mackintosh has also been lost. That also can never be replicated, nor restored.

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  • I'd also add that I am no admirer of Holl's Reid building and wrote for arq at the time of its completion, when it was being lauded by the governors of GSA

    "Holl’s idea of “complimentary contrast” is curious, what does it mean? For him, it means that “you don’t want to do the same thing, if you want to respect someone; you do the opposite. You do something in contrast” In this respect, Holl has succeeded.

    Mackintosh’s elegantly proportioned building details his development as a unique and talented architect over a twelve year period. Holl’s glass box seems too big for its site. It is uniformed in its elevational treatment and repetitive in its detail. Mackintosh’s art school, while functional, robust and clearly driven by the needs of students and influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and the architecture of Japan, is firmly rooted in Glasgow and identifiably true to the materials of its construction.

    But Holl's "cold glass refrigerator of a building" William J R Curtis, should not be the reason why we do not have a full and honest debate that should also consider a competition for a new building.

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