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Revealed: Five practices shortlisted for Mac revamp


The AJ can reveal the five firms vying to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s fire-damaged Glasgow School of Art (GSA) building

Conservation specialists Avanti and Purcell are joined on the shortlist by 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.

The UK-based practices saw off international competition from fourteen firms to land a place on the coveted shortlist.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece was devastated by fire in May with the famous library almost entirely destroyed.

The winning team will be tasked with bringing the 1909 Art Nouveau landmark back to its former glory.

Liz Davidson, project manager for the restoration project, said: ‘All of the shortlisted practices have a strong record in undertaking major restoration and work in historic buildings together with an impressive commitment to the use of new technology and the finest craftsmanship.

‘They each bring the level of experience and expertise that is vital to the restoration of Mackintosh’s masterpiece. We are now looking forward to hearing more about their proposed approaches.’

Presentations by the finalists will be held in mid-March 2015 with an appointment expected later that month.

The project, which could cost up to £35 million, has been the subject of controversy with a number of architects arguing a new modern library should be built rather than an exact replica of the original, while in the aftermath of the fire, a number of architects, including shortlisted John McAslan, said the library should be replicated.

Speaking in the Scottish press, Glasgow-based architect Alan Dunlop said the school should find an innovative, modern architect to build a new library instead of meticulously recreating the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed library (AJ 22.12.14).

He said: ‘There is a debate going on about what should be done and I am worried at the moment. I think rebuilding it would just be just a replica of Mackintosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the Mackintosh Building.intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the Mackintosh Building.intosh Building.intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the intosh Building.intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the intosh - but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the Mackintosh Building.

‘There is actually no way you can replace it as it was. There was 100 years of age and patina that you would have to replicate.

‘It wouldn’t be what Mackintosh would do - just look at the expansion of his work in the years between each part of the Mackintosh Building being built [in 1899 and 1909].’

But Thomas Orr, associate at ADAM Architecture, responded saying the library should be restored.

He commented: ‘A new design would undoubtedly ‘reference’ the Mackintosh original, and it is this approach which could be described as ‘Mockintosh’. Modernist architecture is unfortunately in vogue in Scotland, however this movement should not be allowed to take our history away as well.however this movement should not be allowed to take our history away as well.however this movement should not be allowed to take our history away as well.

‘The idea that the library should be redesigned because it is not a suitable working area for the staff and students does not stand up to scrutiny; there is a large and well-equipped library in another part of the School on the other side of the road.’

He added: ‘The correct course of action is undoubtedly a scrupulous and scholarly restoration of a room of world importance.’

Last month, renowned conservation architect Julian Harrap challenged the school to resist demands to rebuild its library ‘exactly as it was’ before the blaze in May (AJ 03.12.14)

Harrap said he feared ‘insurers and loss adjusters’ were driving an unnecessarily hasty effort to build a replica of the library.

Previous story (AJ 12.11.14)

Mac restoration job drums up global interest

The Mackintosh Building, Glasgow School of Art




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Readers' comments (5)

  • Very safe shortlist.

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  • I agree Alan, and I like your in principle idea of doing a new library by a modern architect. Trouble is - and this might sound conservative - who? I don't think there's anyone out there who'd be up to it today.

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  • Kevin Cooper

    As Alan says, looks like a pretty sensible shortlist; good.
    The Mackintosh library (indeed the entire wing) needs to be restored exactly as it was originally constructed. It was the best part of the best building by our best ever architect, who sadly built far too little. Any other option other than a faithful rebuild based on all of the genuinely forensic information available would be unforgiveable. There are many fine buildings in Scotland, and in Glasgow, and from many different eras, but there is only one wonderfully idiosyncratic unique work of art like this. The Mac is Scotland’s Ronchamp; our Fallingwater. If either of these buildings were damaged by fire, would anyone seriously consider anything other than a faithful restoration? The view up Scott Street of the Mac’s magnificent western end is one that actually deserves the term “iconic”, unlike much of the fatuous form making that term is usually applied to today; like many of my fellow Weegies I stood in Sauchiehall Street and wept like a wee girl as I watched it burn. There may well be gifted architects out there who could create a wonderful new intervention, but this is one of those very, very rare instances where that is just not appropriate. The Mac is a building of world importance, and we owe it to Charlie’s memory, and to future generations, to faithfully rebuild it. The final result will not be a pastiche, but the same real, tangible beautiful thing reborn, a work of art in itself as inspiring as anything created within it over the past hundred years, and one that will acquire a new patina over the next hundred. It may be a museum piece now, but does that really matter? Just to walk in there was to be inspired, and that is something which is priceless.

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  • I defer to few people in my appreciation of Mackintosh and have written frequently and spoken on the BBC about his genius. The true worth of the Mac building and example of Mackintosh's profound talent is that it is still a working art school, over one hundred years since its completion, with the exception of the library. That was a museum space. However, you had the knowledge that Mackintosh once stood in that space, talked with the craftsmen, developed the design, you were always very much aware of his presence. That connection is now lost and cannot be replaced, no matter how good the replication.

    It is a shortlist that avoids controversy and for me disappointing that there is not one "wildcard" on the list, like Mackintosh himself was in the 1890's.

    However, most of all I find it ironic that such an esteemed institution like the Glasgow School of Art, that prides itself in innovation in art and makes such a play of having four winners of the Turner prize should now play it so safe.

    Who could do it? I can think of a few and have faith in my profession that we could rise to this challenge and could produce a new library that can meet modern requirements and it can still be beautiful, inspirational and well considered.

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  • Kevan Shaw

    I must say I think the AJ headline here is inappropriate and prejudicial. This is not supposed to be a "revamp" but a restoration of a sadly accidentally damaged masterpiece.

    When it comes to restoration of damaged masterpieces I cannot imagine, for example, that anyone even remotely suggested the total repainting in a different style of Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross when it suffered significant damage in Glasgow some years ago, honestly I cannot think of a modern painter who would have suggested that this should be done or would be appropriate.

    The Glasgow School of Art was a complete composition albeit done in two stages, of which the library was an essential part. That composition can only be dramatically harmed by an intervention. Indeed would such an intervention have any architectural integrity and worth if it was placed inside the remaining shell? Would this be architecture or merely interior design?

    I would hope ,with the contribution of the many skilled Scottish craftsmen around today in the same way the original was built by Scottish craftsmen guided by the genius of Mackintosh in the early 20th Century the library and other damaged spaces can be fully restored. The library in its original form could be put back into use without the concern of damaging precious antique pieces of furniture.

    Kevan Shaw

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