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Architects weigh in as doubt is cast on Mack rebuild viability

May 13 2024

Architects weigh in as doubt is cast on Mack rebuild viability

Freshly reappointed culture minister Angus Robertson is reportedly giving 'careful consideration' to launching a public inquiry into whether the Glasgow School of Art was sufficiently insured before suffering two devastating fires.

Reports in The Herald follow last week's confirmation by the school that it had entered into arbitration proceedings with its insurers over a failure to confirm policy cover for their claim - six years after the most recent blaze.

The revelations have fuelled speculation that long delayed attempts to rebuild the institution brick by brick may be doomed with John McAslan of McAslan & Partners telling The Times: "No blame should be apportioned to the GSA for the sorry state of the School of Art, as I understand it, an unsettled insurance claim is the cause of the delay. However, as the uncertainties continue, costs continue to rise for its authentic reconstruction and must surely be well above the £100m figure."

Fellow architect Alan Dunlop, added: "I think that we're now looking at the possibility that the whole project, the whole faithful reinstatement is at risk and we'll never see the Mackintosh building again, in whatever form it was likely to take.

"The Scottish Government has said that this is entirely an issue for the GSA so I can't see where the money is going to come from. After the successful fundraising after the first fire, I don't know why anybody would seriously contemplate putting money in to get the building rebuilt."

The insurance controversy compounds failures in the procurement process to appoint a design team for the rebuild. The GSA insists that its plan for a faithful reinstatement of the building is on track and will not be reconsidered. 


#1 Posted by Georwell84 on 13 May 2024 at 16:18 PM
I don't see any point in an enquiry except to delay the rebuild to the point on cancellation. Although the Scottish Government are not at fault here we should expect them to consider this rebuild with the same support they would apply to an Edinburgh landmark.
#2 Posted by MackHack on 13 May 2024 at 19:37 PM
Agreed #1, if the GSA building were in Edinburgh the rebuild would be well on its way already. The whole thing is a tragic farce.
#3 Posted by FHM on 13 May 2024 at 22:12 PM
#1 and #2, if the GSA building were in Glasgow it would not have gone on fire twice, both times during refurbishment.
#4 Posted by Roddy_ on 13 May 2024 at 22:12 PM
According to a recent Herald interview, Alan Dunlop doesn't believe that a 'faithful' restoration of the Mac is possible and cites everything from building regs to the contraction of drawing and painting as subjects at the school to the procument method as barriers. This is fair enough.

He continues with his ideas for a trajectory;
' We retain what's exisiting of the original Mackintosh structure and build a new school within the bones of that struture which somehow represents Mackintosh's legacy and is faithful to Mackintosh.'

I find this an astonishing view that completely misunderstands the Gesamkunstwerk of the School of art. Dunlop asserts that this would need the guiding hand of an exceptional architect-not half-but if you think that the current state of affairs is a dog's breakfast can you imagine what this approach might lead to?

I'm very fond of Alan's drawings - he is an exceptional draughtsman and no doubt an excellent teacher, but he is wrong, wrong, wrong on this front.
Neil C
#5 Posted by Neil C on 14 May 2024 at 07:53 AM
#4 I have listened to that interview on the Herald's facebook page a number of times and read Dunlop's well documented views in the press. I do not agree with him that the Mack is now lost, though admittedly we may never see it again, but you appear to conflate the incompetence of the past chair and board and the failures "dogs breakfast" of the present, particularly regarding the scuppering of the procurement, as the reason why his stated approach is astonishing and wrong?
#6 Posted by Roddy_ on 14 May 2024 at 10:19 AM
@ #5
I too do not believe that the Mack is lost.
To be clear, I'm conflating the failed efforts hitherto with the mis-reading or misunderstanding inherent in Alan Dunlop'd proposed approach to the design value of the School.
Both should be avoided.
Fat Bloke on Tour
#7 Posted by Fat Bloke on Tour on 14 May 2024 at 11:12 AM
If we cannot rebuild the Mack then we should just shut Holyrood down and go back to waiting on the fax from Westminster.

Low rent / low energy / low ability -- that is what Scotland PLC has become.

Old pals act stuffing boards with empty jackets / placement / big girl's blouses / well kent faces / numpities / ex TV renta-gobs.
Ghetto King
#8 Posted by Ghetto King on 14 May 2024 at 11:48 AM
I have said this before and will say it again. The Mack is gone and will never be rebuilt. Who would even consider taking on this project to completion and try to raise the necessary funding when the previous attempt ended in fire.
If there is to be a School Of Art at this site then surely it would be best to have a completely new vision and new build.
How many more years are to be wasted waiting for a romantic ideal that will never be realised?

Bill Cunningham
#9 Posted by Bill Cunningham on 14 May 2024 at 11:50 AM
Neil C thanks the tip on the Herald video. Just listened to it. Alan Dunlop is right, the Mackintosh building cannot be restored and replicated as before without significant compromises and as he says it is arrogance to suggest it could be. I agree.

If the reports in the media recently regarding insurances are true and if the arbitration proceedings that have begun result in the school of art not being successful in their claim regarding cover then the replication of the Mack, now estimated at over £100 million and possibly more, will undoubtedly fail. So other options, like Alan Dunlop's have to be considered.
Gordon B
#10 Posted by Gordon B on 14 May 2024 at 12:53 PM
Anyone noticed how the French rebuilt Notre Dame, faithfully and beautifully after the the tragic fire there?
We should rebuild the Mac, faithfully and beautifully, but our tragedy, the muddled mindset of bureaucrats and critics won't let us.
James Hepburn
#11 Posted by James Hepburn on 14 May 2024 at 12:53 PM
Meanwhile Muriel Grey and co. have walked away scot free.
#12 Posted by KLD on 14 May 2024 at 21:40 PM
It's a shame that the building was lost but with so many heritage assets at risk I think we should concentrate on preserving and enhancing the ones that are left, not throwing colossal sums at pastiche recreations of those that the owners allowed to burn to cinders on two occasions.
Showbiz Sam
#13 Posted by Showbiz Sam on 15 May 2024 at 15:21 PM
"All is dead here, save stupidity."
Perfectly sums up Scotland.
#14 Posted by Fudge on 15 May 2024 at 17:31 PM
#10 yes fully agree. In this particular case a faithful restoration is appropriate and not a pastiche.
#15 Posted by KLD on 16 May 2024 at 08:43 AM
As I understand it a faithful recreation is not possible due to changed building regulations etc.
Showbiz Sam
#16 Posted by Showbiz Sam on 16 May 2024 at 10:58 AM
This is what i mean. One of the most iconic buildings in the world is to be wholly subservient to Scottish Building Regulations and hence it cant be rebuilt. Stupidity is clearly alive and well here.
Tammy Scoosh
#17 Posted by Tammy Scoosh on 16 May 2024 at 12:51 PM
If this does go ahead, it'll be with a half-baked design team because all those with the true care and skill required have been battered and bruised over the last 10+ years, particularly with regard to the recent procurement fiasco. The next procurement should not weigh so heavily on cost of the designer, to entice those with the skill required into assisting.
Islands of Sanity
#18 Posted by Islands of Sanity on 16 May 2024 at 19:10 PM
I went to the first production of the Slab boys with a young Robbie Coltrane. It was the hope and aspiration of the characters to get into THE school of art. This is not just an iconic building.
No public Inquiry please as it will kill it off. Just get on with in and restore, albeit with a few compromises. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing. This from an east coaster!
Jake Janobs
#19 Posted by Jake Janobs on 17 May 2024 at 10:31 AM
#10 They haven't finished Notre Dame yet, and it was only partially damaged in its fire - very similar to the 2014 Mack building fire, which was scheduled to be repaired on a very similar time scale (around 5 years), so people should stop drawing that parallel. Notre Dame wasn't affected by anything as devastating as the 2018 fire. I don't see the point of an enquiry - there must be several parties' insurers involved here (not least the contracters who were in control of the building when it burned the second time) and they are presumably trying to minimise what they have to pay out. Let the arbitration and wrangling play out, and if there's a crippling shortfall at the end of it, then have your enquiry. Otherwise it is just political point scoring which will delay things even more, agree with other posters on this.
D to the R
#20 Posted by D to the R on 17 May 2024 at 13:32 PM
Pretty sure if you asked most tax payers whether or not they wanted their dough spent on resurrecting a part-demolished architectural masterpiece they'd tell yea' tae bolt.
Lets spend the money sorting the country out and not bum-flirting with the Garnethill wombles
Showbiz Sam
#21 Posted by Showbiz Sam on 17 May 2024 at 14:45 PM
Again, thus spake stupidity.
The country will always need "sorting out".
#22 Posted by Lovely on 17 May 2024 at 15:23 PM
Just a wee important reminder that the school was given public funds to fit sprinklers well before the first fire as everyone knew that it was a tinder box and something needed to be done. They obviously never implemented them. The reason given at the enquiry was 'asbestos' and no further discussion was had about the work arounds and safe removal that would have been possible. How pathetic is that?
#23 Posted by Mark on 18 May 2024 at 22:04 PM
We'll discover in the fullness of time whether Alan D is correct – I really hope he's wrong, but things are looking bleaker and bleaker. The GSA story is turning into Scotland's Shame.

Meantime perhaps the School of Art building needs to be removed from GSA's control. Do the GSA board alluded to in point #11 have the ability to fundraise, procure and manage a complex £100m+ reconstruction project? Based on the fact they've failed twice before, that doesn't seem credible. Time to look for an organisation with the right skills – HES springs to mind.

Comment #22 makes an important point – although it might seem like a distraction and could slow things down, it sounds like we need the public inquiry to investigate whether GSA's board were negligent in not fitting sprinklers prior to the fires.
#24 Posted by Tom on 20 May 2024 at 09:29 AM
Professor Dunlop is right. The Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art as we knew it is gone. It is time to accept that and move on.
D to the R
#25 Posted by D to the R on 20 May 2024 at 12:53 PM
Stand down folks ... Showbiz Sam will cough up the dough for it. The country is fine .... fine i tell thee
Showbiz Sam
#26 Posted by Showbiz Sam on 20 May 2024 at 16:34 PM
lets put this into context>
Paisley museum / a working building cost 45M to overhaul. Nobody in the world knows where paisley is. and a 100M for a restored world famous Glasgow Scool of Art bringing tourist dollars. i really dont see what the problem is. as i said at the start / scotland all is dead here, save stiupidity
#27 Posted by Lovely on 21 May 2024 at 12:34 PM
When the child throws their ice cream wilfully onto the ground will you buy it a 3rd one in a row without any scolding or plan B?

Bearing in mind too that it will no longer actually be a beautiful hand made ice cream but rather a v expensive facsimile of one.

If Paisley town hall cost £45M then it suggests that this re-creation will be more like £200-300M at least.

No more fake enquiries and nonsense talk, please either forget the whole thing or start doing it properly.

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