Glasgow School of Art fire: Mackintosh building future in balance

Staff ‘heartbroken’ after second fire at art nouveau masterwork in four years

June 18, 2018
Glasgow School of Art library, Scotland, architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Source: Getty
Glasgow School of Art library

Leaders of Glasgow School of Art have said that they face a “difficult waiting game” to see if its Mackintosh building can be saved after it was gutted by a second serious fire.

Flames ripped through the art nouveau masterwork on the evening of 15 June, as restoration work continued following a blaze which destroyed much of the famous Mackintosh library in 2014.

Architectural experts have debated whether the listed building – which dates to 1909 – can be saved, or will have to be demolished.

Muriel Gray, chair of the GSA’s board of governors, said that it was “an understatement to say everyone is utterly devastated”.

“We now have a difficult waiting game until Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Glasgow City Council and associated agencies have completed their investigations into the condition of the building,” she said.

“We remain hopeful of as positive an outcome as possible because it is clear that the love for the Mackintosh and recognition of its importance to Glasgow and the wider world is shared by absolutely everyone.”

The cause of the fire remained unclear; the GSA said that the site was under the management of the main contractor for the restoration project initiated after the last fire, Kier Construction Scotland.

According to national media reports, automatic fire sprinklers had not been fully installed in the building while refurbishment continued.

Tom Inns, the GSA’s director, said that staff were “heartbroken” by the fire and were “eternally grateful for the professionalism and passion of the Scottish emergency services”.

“Our immediate priority is continuity for our students and staff, maintaining the educational experience for over 400 postgraduates and 1,500 Open Studio students who are with us for the rest of this academic year, and planning for the 2018-19 academic year in what is clearly a challenging environment,” Professor Inns said.

“However, we are strengthened by the continued messages and visible acts of support from our local community, our partners in Glasgow City Council, [the] Scottish Funding Council, Historic Environment Scotland, the Scottish and UK governments; and friends from across the world.”

The 2014 fire began when gases from a foam canister used in a student project ignited.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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