June 20, 2018

Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Building Will Likely Avoid Demolition

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND—A survey of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building has determined that the structure will not face demolition after Friday night’s fire that caused severe damage to the structure’s east wing and roof. Building control officers for the city of Glasgow, the school, and Historic Environment Scotland, an architectural conservation group, have reached a consensus to salvage and rebuild the structure, Severin Carrell and Libby Brooks report for The Guardian.

On Tuesday, Scotland Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland gave control of the site to the Glasgow City Council’s building control team. Inspectors compared the remains of the Mackintosh with a detailed 3D digital scan of the building taken after the May 2014 fire that damaged its west wing and library. According to an unnamed city councilmember, “the external fabric of the building appears to be savable 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 savable.”

An early estimate of saving the existing structure was set at £100 million. The ongoing refurbishment of the Mackintosh from the May 2014 fire was expected to cost £35 million, and many of the architectural elements saved during the renovation were stored offsite and not damaged in Friday night’s blaze.

With much of the conservation analysis completed during renovations from the May 2014 fire, the decision to rebuild is obvious. Roger Billcliffe, the author of several books about architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, told The Guardian, “I see no argument for why you wouldn’t rebuild the school as it was. It has been voted Britain’s most important building several times over, and we have all of the information needed to recreate every detail, following extensive laser surveys of the first fire.”

Not all are in favor of restoring the Mackintosh. Alan Dunlop, a Glasgow School of Art-trained architect, said, “From what I’ve seen, restoration is not an option. We’d be talking about replication, which is totally against what Mackintosh stood for. He was an innovator, working at the cutting edge. He would want to see a new school of art fit for the twenty-first century.”

No official announcement has yet been made. In a statement on the school’s website, Glasgow School of Art director Tom Inns said, “Since Friday evening, the Glasgow School of Art has been working round the clock to ensure that the academic experience for over four hundred postgraduate and 1500 Open Studio students can continue. We would like to express our thanks to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland for allowing us to come up on the site today and for enabling access yesterday in order to begin assessing the condition of the building. This was the first opportunity for the expert team to see the building and begin what will be a long and complex process of determining the future of the Mack, but we remain optimistic.”

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