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Devastating fire leaves Glasgow School of Art in a parlous state

June 16 2018

Devastating fire leaves Glasgow School of Art in a parlous state
Glasgow School of Art has found itself at the centre of yet another devastating fire just four years after an earlier blaze tore through one wing of the famous school, gutting its unique library.

The latest fire is far worse having spread rapidly through the building with apparent ease, taking the entire interior with it to leave only the walls standing.

In the process it has wiped out four years worth of painstaking restoration efforts led by Kier Construction and Page\Park architects, who had only just begun installing a hand-built replica of the original complete with a ‘mist suppression system’.

Scottish Fire & Rescue Service area manager David Young said: “Damage inside is quite considerable.
Colleagues who were at the fire four years ago said it was less devastating than it is now.

"Damage is from one end of the building to the other. The roof is damaged and the floors. The building is in a poor state.”

In the aftermath of the 2014 fire a debate began over whether to create a contemporary reinterpretation of the library rather than a ‘pastiche’ recreation, with the school ultimately committing to the latter vision.

Given the extent of devastation this time around a contemporary interior behind surviving masonry may be the only option available.

Sauchiehall Street was already reeling from an earlier nightclub fire that left another block cordoned off
Sauchiehall Street was already reeling from an earlier nightclub fire that left another block cordoned off
The fire began late on Friday night and was still smouldering on Saturday afternoon
The fire began late on Friday night and was still smouldering on Saturday afternoon


#1 Posted by Cadmonkey on 16 Jun 2018 at 18:48 PM
The circumstances of this fire are different to the one 4 years ago.
4 years ago a student’s display caused the fire, this year the site was presumably in the possession of a main contractor.
So surely a like for like replacement is on the cards, covered by the contractors insurance?
That is what insurance is for.
#2 Posted by Sven on 16 Jun 2018 at 19:02 PM
Insurance is an irrelevance in an internationally important building. What remains of the original is what counts and how much of the MacIntosh spirit that can be added back. My family have a long history with CRM and trust me a like for like replacement is what he would have wanted: he said the same things about the camponile in piazza San Marco.
And so it goes...
#3 Posted by And so it goes... on 17 Jun 2018 at 10:14 AM
The last time round in the aftermath concerning the 'library' fire at the GSA, I believe the right architectural approach was made eschewing a modern intervention. But now, the degree of damage (from the few aerial views) is such that the building as a substantial whole has in effect 'gone'. This presents an altogether different narrative. The GSA is now a cadaver, well and truly. It has had its day and has passed emotionally into history. So be it.

No doubt a philosophical enquiry will ensue over the coming months by the great and the good. - is this building to be re-instated item by item, or an alternative solution sought. Cue James Simpson (God forbid) et al. Hopefully this time round a common sense will prevail and the right decision arrived at to have a sensitive modern working building retaining as much of what is left as possible. How this is to be achieved/ procured is another story altogether.

(Anecdotally, I am also reminded of Izzi Metzstein 35 years ago saying he wished people would just leave Mackintosh alone and stop commercialising/ 'messing around' with him (and he even used the language of necrophilia and mockintosh etc) - and that awful bloody mural currently is a case in point that comes to mind).

So here's hoping that the powers that be accept the loss and try and make a positive out of a negative and build something in the same spirit and structure of the old original such as was done in post-war Munich with the 'modern intervention' of the Alte Pinakothek for example. Other examples abound, of course and this is not an example to be taken literally.

After all, If van Gogh's Sunflower painting e.g. were destroyed by fire, there would be absolutely no philosophical point in re-instating it. Once the context has gone (even for a work as a museum artefact) all that remains is the persistence of memory.

Good luck to all concerned in the coming years.
#4 Posted by alibi on 17 Jun 2018 at 15:25 PM
Has to be a rebuild. If there's no money available leave it until there is. To build on this site will deprive future generations of the building, which would be sickeningly selfish and arrogant. We would not be thanked for it.
#5 Posted by Alibaba on 17 Jun 2018 at 17:02 PM
Problem 1. Builders insurance will allow for its repair. But will it allow for reinstatement of this gem to the original standard.
cue much legals...
Problem 2. The craftsmen, suppliers, consultants involved will have likely taken a hit themselves to ensure that they provide the best, and overdone it so they can say that they were invo!ved.
This time round.......
#6 Posted by Billy on 17 Jun 2018 at 21:13 PM
This is our heritage. It MUST be restored or rebuilt. The blocks to the south of it should be demolished to provide a rear view from Sauchiehall st. The proposed cheap looking hellish student accommodation for the Yates site should be denied.
James Hepburn
#7 Posted by James Hepburn on 18 Jun 2018 at 00:37 AM
I think the first question that should be answered is who is to blame. The first time round nobody took responsibility for the poor management of what is a national treasure, or was. For it to happen a second time is criminal negligence and we deserve to know which people should have taken far better care of The MAC. It's a disgrace. I understand that after the first time it happened sprinklers were not even installed on a temporary basis during construction. This can be done. There was no night watchman either. It's just wrong and completely irresponsible.
#8 Posted by FHM on 18 Jun 2018 at 08:50 AM
In this situation, David Chipperfield Architects should really be involved. They carried out a world class renovation of the Neues Museum in Berlin, and involving anyone else would be a disservice to the building.
#9 Posted by Inahuf on 18 Jun 2018 at 09:22 AM
Does no one know thier contracts? Generally the contractor insures a new build site, but the client insures the building for alterations, refurb etc...
Walt Disney
#10 Posted by Walt Disney on 18 Jun 2018 at 11:24 AM
In refurb works the contractor only usually insures the building works and the building owner / client insures the existing building (unsually for the re-build value, or sometimes only for demolition and site clearance.)
#11 Posted by Cadmonkey on 18 Jun 2018 at 12:28 PM
So why was there a need to raise money from the public for the library project refurb after the last fire?
Was the building not insured?
Surely adequate insurance will have been put in place this time round so the public don’t need to cough up again.
I find the grandstanding of politicians before the facts are known saying they are “ready to help in any way we can” premature and simply vote chasing.
Oliver Elliott
#12 Posted by Oliver Elliott on 18 Jun 2018 at 12:52 PM
Mackintosh's GSA possessed great value as a building, but is not a work of art in the same sense as a Van Gough's Sunflower painting or the Sistine Chapel ceiling. These are examples of masterpieces created directly by the artist whereas the value in the art school was / is predominantly in its design. I don't wish to take away from the skill and mastery of those who built the art school but these skills are still available and can be employed to bring Mackintosh's vision of the art school back to life. It may have been different if the Mack was adorned with Mackintosh murals but it wasn't. It's genius was in its simple elegance and use of light to give its inhabitants an experience. There is no reason why this cannot be replicated to Mackintosh's original design. It would still have the same significance as it had in the past, however the same could not be said of a replica of the Sistine Chapel or the Sunflower.

Bring back the Mack!!! Just as it was!!!
#13 Posted by lm on 18 Jun 2018 at 13:13 PM
Is this Faith? Maybe it is. I think it's maybe the time to move on with this. Nobody is going to bring back the building even Mr Chipperfield. I don't know what the real solution is but maybe it's time to build something Iconic, world class, maybe it's time to bring the best people on site. Build something new and modern hopefully something that is going to make us proud.
show must go on
#14 Posted by show must go on on 18 Jun 2018 at 13:53 PM
Realy sad for the O2 gone with the fire.

Respecting the memories assiciated with the place, it's the perfect opportunity to get a clean slate. Demolish the whole quarter and attract Calatrava or same league vissionaire to give this part of town a serious kick to regenerate. What's left from the GSA - drop it in the Pollock Park next to Burrell Collection and let's move forward. Now or never.
Stephen Jenkins
#15 Posted by Stephen Jenkins on 19 Jun 2018 at 16:23 PM
Compare Plymouth and Swansea that were unsympathetically rebuilt with concrete after the war with Dresden, which was lovingly restored.

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