Senior figures in Glasgow city council claim Glasgow School of Art can be saved from demolition The 110-year-old building, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was gutted by a fire last week that destroyed much of its internal space, with questions raised as to whether the exterior brick walls could withstand the heat from a second fire in four years.
However, as the Guardian reports, the general consensus between building control officers, the art school and Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the official conservation agency, is that the landmark should be saved. They have been comparing its walls and roof with a detailed 3D digital scan of the building in order to map out how significant the damage is, with the results so far being more positive than expected.
A council spokesman said: “The external fabric of the building appears to be saveable except for the eastern gable, which appears to have shifted slightly. This is because the walls are tied together by the roof. Right now, people are operating on the understanding it will be saveable.”
The British and Scottish governments have pledged to support the restoration – which has been estimated at upwards of £100m.
A tragic story of hubris Writing in the Scottish Review, Eileen Reed – a former senior member of staff at Glasgow School of Art – asks why GSA’s management refuses to take any responsibility for Friday’s fire at the Mackintosh Building and why lessons were not learned from the previous fire – and earlier.
‘In truth, the seeds of the Mack’s destruction were sown long before both fires,’ she writes. ‘Members of staff and alumni who raised issues about the safety of the building for years prior to 2014 had to remain tight-lipped after the first fire, or [be] condemned as churlish in the wave of sympathy and grief.’
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Glaswegian architect Alan Dunlop, who studied at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, claims the building has been too badly damaged. Speaking to the Independent, architect Alan Dunlop said: “I think the damage is irreparable. The difference from the damage in 2014 is that, although it was terrible and although the library was destroyed, the original wing that Mackintosh built wasn’t affected really, but now the whole building has been gutted. There’s a possibility it can be restored but that will bring about another debate: if they do bring it back, is it still a Mackintosh building?”
Were lessons learned from 2014 Mackintosh fire? Columnist and commentator Kevin McKenna has claimed that important questions have never adequately been addressed after the 2014 fire. This includes its cause, which arose after expanding foam in a student exhibit exploded, with flames then being sucked up a ventilation shaft that had been left open.
McKenna says the details of this were covered in a report into the fire prepared by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), but unfortunately the report was redacted.
Writing in Herald Scotland, Roger Billcliff said this resulted in a continuing risk. He comments: “While some may say that these events are in the past, water under the bridge and so on, had full disclosure been made to the public at the time there would surely have been more vocal demands about the treatment of the Mackintosh building while it underwent restoration.”
Glasgow School of Art contractor was previously condemned for fire safety failings Kier Construction, which was in charge of the restoration of Glasgow School of Art, had faced criticism for previous fire safety failings, Herald Scotland reports. An inquiry had ruled that there had been ‘extensive failures’ in its fire safety measures at the DG One leisure centre in Dumfries. The complex opened in 2008 but was forced to close six years later.
As the Scottish Sun reports, Professor John Cole, who led the probe, said: “This inquiry would particularly wish to bring attention to the extensive failures in regard to the omissions and inadequate installation of fire-stopping discovered throughout the DG One building.”
Although there is no suggestion Kier Construction was responsible for the fire at Glasgow School of Art, questions have been raised after it was reported a sprinkler system had not yet been fitted in the building.
In response, MP Paul Sweeney has branded the school’s chiefs as “incompetent and arrogant” over its fire safety. He said: “I think we need to ask hard questions about the judgement of the contractors and the governors at the school about whether they had the right processes in place and the right oversight. What was the contractor doing? Why wasn’t there CCTV, thermal camera or automatic links to fire brigade? I would have thought all of that would have been in place.”
1. Mackintosh Building, Glasgow School of Art, after 15 June 2018 fire. Photo: Police Scotland via @polscotair