June 18, 2018

Fire Ravages Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building For a Second Time

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—A major fire ripped through the Glasgow School of Art’s renowned Mackintosh Building, beginning around 11:15pm, Friday, June 15. Scottish Fire and Rescue Services evacuated neighboring buildings and extinguished the fire Saturday afternoon, revealing extensive damage to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Art Nouveau structure and the neighboring O2 ABC music venue. Neighboring stores and a cinema sustained damage but no casualties were reported.

The Mackintosh Building was undergoing renovations to repair extensive damage from a May 2014. The £32 million restoration project was expected to be complete in 2019, as a part of a larger expansion of the school’s facilities. The Mackintosh building was not in active use during renovation, and the Glasgow School of Art’s other facilities will be closed through the next week.

The May 2014 blaze was caused exploding overhead projector igniting a foam canister stored in the building’s basement. Lacking an adequate fire-safety system, flames spread through the building’s ventilation and destroyed the Mackintosh’s fin-de-siècle library and much of its western half. The cause of Friday night’s fire has not yet been determined. Scottish Fire and Rescue Services reported extensive damage to each of the Mackintosh’s five floors, and aerial photographs revealed that sections of the building’s roof had collapsed.

According a report in The Guardian, a replacement fire-safety system had not yet been fully installed or why such a measure was not prioritized after the May 2014 fire.

Paul Sweeney, Scottish Labour MP for Glasgow North East and board member of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, told The Guardian, “I was rather surprised at the lack of active fire prevention patrols at the building. In hindsight, there should have been much more done. The side of the building where the library was, the 1909 extension, has been entirely gutted. It’s back to bricks and ashes, but the structural beams and walls look fairly solid.”

Early estimates to completely restore the building have reached £100 million, and some fire-safety experts and architects expressed doubt such a project is even possible. “I think you can write off any hope that anything is left internally,” Sweeney said, “but the stone and steel is holding up, so there is a good chance that you could have a façade retention structure in place and then begin restoration again. We already have a critical mass of knowledge and craftsmanship built up from the last fire.”

On the school’s website, representatives for the Glasgow School of Art wrote, “We are liasing closely with SFRS, with Kier Construction Scotland (the Mackintosh Building contractors) and both the Scottish and UK Governments. SFRS investigations are ongoing and we are awaiting their outcome. […] We hugely appreciate the messages of support and offers of help that we have received from around the world. We would ask that at this time any such offers should be sent to [email protected] We will try and respond as soon as is practicable.”

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