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Page\Park: ‘We have been entrusted with an incredible challenge’

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Page\Park founders David Page and Brian Park have spoken of their plans for restoring Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s fire-damaged Glasgow School of Art

The keynote speakers at the AJ’s Retrofit Awards at London’s The Brewery last night (16 September) set out the practice’s ten principles for its work on the Mack.

Page\Park’s ten principles for the Mack project

1. Art school and its legacy

If you went into the art school there were lots of locked rooms which were too important to be used by students. The fire enables us to question whether the building is a museum or a working art school.’

2. Room and space

‘There are two types of spaces: fixed spaces – like the library, and fluid spaces – the art studios.’

3. Use

‘Use should respond to form. This is quite a challenge. You have to flex to the building.’

4. Access

‘We have to get access to the building for all.’

5. Nurture

‘Each generation looks at the Mack in a different way. The building has never fallen out of favour.’

6. Catalyst

‘Many people have commented: “Surely you can’t restore and reconstruct. There must be a contemporary reinterpretation”. We have reflected hard on these comments. Many artists have said what an inspiration the building has been to them over the years. We are not restoring the fact of the building but seeking to restore its creative effect. That is what is important.’

7. Light

‘For all who have walked through the building one of the things which is so special is the way Mackintosh used light in a remarkable way. It is one of the early electrically-lit buildings, but in order to cut costs it was also one fo the first off-peak systems. The building was originally only lit from 7 – 9pm.’

8. Enhancing building performance

‘The Mack has become a spaghetti of services. Working with a services engineer we are looking at using the ducts again and enhancing them in a way which Mackintosh couldn’t. Our contribution to the building will be how to make it perform better.’

9. Imperceptibility

‘We would like it to almost not exist. We want to reinstate the original intention of the architecture.’

10. Functionality through furniture

‘This is more like a postscript to the work. One of Mackintosh’s great contributions to the world of design was his furniture. The art school should develop a set of furniture which allows the building to be used as intended.’

Speaking about the iconic fire-damaged library and whether it should be rebuilt or replaced with a modern addition, Park said: ‘The debate continues but the process has begun. We are proceeding very carefully piece-by-piece.’

‘Key to everything is research and documentation’, said Park. ‘We are delving deeper into what the Mack is. Our documented output needs to be exemplary and ground breaking.’

He added: ‘We are not simply putting it back together again.’

The practice has so far produced more than 100 survey drawings to inform the re-making of elements of the building.

Page\Park won the contest to restore the Glasgow School of Art building back in March seeing off competition from John McAslan + Partners, Avanti, Purcell, and LDN Architects to bag the prestigious job to restore the Category A-listed masterpiece.

The restoration project is set to complete by 2018.

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