Muriel Gray, chair of Glasgow School of Art’s board, has said that the fire-gutted Mackintosh building will definitely be rebuilt as a working art school – but that it could be 10 years before students are back inside Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.
Gray, who was speaking on BBC Radio Scotland‘s Good Morning Scotland programme, also said that students being unable to use the building for so long was “the biggest tragedy” of the devastating second fire which struck on 15 June.
However, although there has been much speculation about the future of the building following June’s second fire, Gray said the decision to rebuild the Mackintosh building had been made after the 2014 fire and that the position hadn’t changed.
She said: “The board of governors were completely unanimous about this and it’s not up for discussion.”
Talking about the impact of the second fire coming so close to the building reopening, she said: “You can either sit in a corner in a foetal position and weep about that or you can face up to the reality and go ‘right, setback again, we are just going to come back and do this brilliantly’.
“There is absolutely no way it wouldn’t be a working art school. It’s non-negotiable.”
- More on the fallout from the GSA fire:
CCA Glasgow: ‘Indefinite’ closure puts city’s flagship arts venue on “financial knife edge”
In response to comments about the delays people have had getting access to homes and businesses in the area around the burnt-out building, Gray said: “We have been removing the unsafe masonry, declared unsafe by building control at the council, as fast as we possibly could, in order to allow people back.
“We’ve been absolutely working so hard with everyone round about us to try and make things happen quickly enough to get people back into their homes, to try and help businesses, and liaising with all the people affected.”
Both Glasgow School of Art and Glasgow City Council have been criticised by local businesses and residents over its handling of the safety cordon implemented following the fire.
One high-profile casualty that has been closed since the fire is the nearby Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), whose side entrance and fire exits open on to Scott Street, opposite the Mackintosh building’s West gable, which is within the safety cordon around the building.
CCA had hoped to finally reopen this month. However, despite being led to believe that staff would get access in September and the building would be open to the public on 14 September, it remains closed.
Having been told earlier this month by the council that it would be closed “indefinitely”, CCA has since stated that it now hopes to reopen on 15 October – four months after the Glasgow School of Art fire.
Speaking on the same BBC Radio Scotland programme, CCA director Francis McKee said that because they had not been allowed access since the fire, a leaking toilet in the building had brought down the ceiling of a gallery below.
He said: “For the entire time, most of the building has been outside the cordon. That lack of access, when it could have been – through common sense – given, has meant we’ve lost the ceiling of a gallery and the artwork in the gallery. That didn’t have to happen.”
In a separate statement, Glasgow School of Art director Professor Tom Inns said: “The Glasgow School of Art has a close relationship with the CCA. We have been working with them to identify solutions to the key issue of their fire exits on Scott Street, and to see what can be done to enable managed access.
“Along with Glasgow City Council we had hoped that access in mid-September might have been possible, but inspections of the building following the final removal of existing scaffolding on the south west corner confirmed that additional work would need to be undertaken here.”
“We will work flat out to get this work done as soon as possible and in the meantime will continue to identify how controlled access can be arranged.”
1. Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, West gable on to Scott Street, taken on 14 August 2018. Photo: courtesy Glasgow School of Art
2. CCA, Glasgow, Sauchiehall Street entrance. Photo: Alan Dimmick
3. Mackintosh building, Glasgow School of Art, after 15 June 2018 fire. Photo: Police Scotland via @polscotair