Tom Inns, director of the Glasgow School of Art, has announced that the school’s fabled Charles Rennie Mackintosh building will be rebuilt following the massive fire that engulfed the school last month. In comments made to The Guardian—his first interview since the June 15 inferno—Inns said, “We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building. There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building.” The fire that tore through the 110-year-old building is still under investigation as crews begin the difficult work of delicately dismantling sections of the southeast and west facades in an effort to prevent their collapse. In the interview with The Guardian, Inns added a bit of hope to the situation by revealing that roughly half of the fixtures and fittings that had been salvaged and restored after the 2014 blaze that gutted the library were in storage during the most recent fire. The library was partially restored at the time of this year’s blaze, with the £35 million restoration of the complex by Page/Park Architects pushing toward its projected 2019 completion. All that work has gone up in smoke, however, and Kier Construction, the contractor in charge of the initial restoration, has come under fire for perceived lapses in fire safety on the site, including news that the building had not been outfitted with a new sprinkler system at the time of the blaze. Inns and the contractor have since clarified that both parties had agreed to the scope and adequacy of the project’s fire safety strategy, however. Kier has since severed its relationship with the school as the investigation into the fire continues. The school is expecting to use insurance money to finance the rebuilding process, which currently has no timeline for completion. The question of how or whether to rebuild The Mack, as the library building is known, was set off before the latest blaze was even put out. Architectural historian Alan Dunlop has advocated against “replication” of the school while art historians, the conservation group Historic Environment Scotland, and now Inns himself have pushed for restoration. Sally Stewart, head of architecture at Glasgow School of Art cautioned against adaptive reuse of the building due to the structure’s finely-tuned inner workings. She told The Guardian, “The beauty of the Mack was that in its design it really considered the internal environment needed for the disciplines that were housed in it. In terms of the light within the studios, how the studios were scaled, to tinker with any of that is really tricky.”
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According to recent reports, sections of the Glasgow School of Art will be disassembled over the coming days. Officials studying the June 15th blaze have observed a larger degree of settling and movement among the remaining sections of the building than originally anticipated, enough to prompt the investigative team to begin dismantling the south facade of the main library building, The Guardian reports. According to The Guardian, a local official said, “The building has moved much, much more than we expected. The south facade is a particular risk and we’re now saying it is likely rather than possibly going to collapse.” The deconstruction efforts will be aimed at preventing the structure from causing more collateral damage and to avert any injuries or loss of life that could occur if any of the building’s bricks were to come loose and tumble down to earth. The areas around the school have been off-limits to residents, businesses, and the public since the blaze, which consumed almost the entirety of the library building, including sections that were still under renovation following a 2014 blaze that also caused extensive damage. Nearly all of the elements replaced via the £37 million restoration have been lost in the most recent fire. https://twitter.com/peterheath8/status/1009202184062472210?s=21 Investigators have been comparing on-site measurements and documentation with a highly-detailed 3-D model that was created of the building for the most recent restoration in their efforts to ascertain the extent of the damage. The world-famous Glasgow School of Art building was originally completed in 1909 by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The local official added, “[The south facade] will be taken down urgently to probably at least the first floor level, but safely. And by safely we mean it will take a couple of days to come up with a methodology to do that.” As elements of the building are disassembled and the investigation into the fire continues, debate within the architectural community has shifted toward whether—or how—to restore or replace the historic structure. Architectural historian Alan Dunlop has advocated against “replication” of the school while art historians and the conservation group Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have expressed cautious optimism regarding the possibility that the structure can be saved and restored. For now, the school is working hard to stabilize and salvage what can be saved from the structure. A local spokesperson told The Guardian in a separate report, “There is a consensus emerging that the intention of the building control people, HES people, and the art school is to save the building. Right now, people are operating on the understanding it will be saveable.”
In 2014, a fire sparked by a student project ripped through the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building, ascending through the structure’s vertical shafts and voids, to devastate significant portions of the interior. Design team lead for the restoration of the Mackintosh Building is the Glasgow-based firm Page\Park Architects, who are at the forefront of architectural conservation in the United Kingdom. Completed in 1909, the Glasgow School of Art was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in his distinctive Arts and Crafts style, adorned with idiosyncratic detailing and complex arrangements of materials. The Mackintosh Building was built in two phases; the eastern section was opened in 1899 while the western section was completed a decade later. According to Liz Davidson, the GSA Senior Project Manager of the Mackintosh Building Restoration, “Just over 50 percent of the structure remained relatively unscathed during the blaze, 30 percent was subject to damage stemming from the dual effects of intense heat and billowing smoke, and nearly 20 percent was utterly destroyed.” The latter category largely impacted the top floors of the building, which are home to the library, a gallery, and the upper loggia. The process of restoration requires the study and evaluation of archival records and surviving materials as well as the sourcing of original materials. It also requires knowledge of traditional craftsmanship, a process Iain King, Depute of Conservation at Page\Park Architects, describes as “bringing craft back into the building.” This effectively reintroduces a forgotten level of craftsmanship to Scotland’s building industry. The restoration process is also a transcontinental enterprise. The restoration of Studio 58, a Japanese-inspired gallery located on the top floor of the Glasgow School of Art, required century-old American yellow pine for its columns. Although yellow pine can be sourced across Europe and the United States, the century-old pine is superior in its structural strength and finish, and thus needed to be sourced from a pre-existing stockpile or building. In a twist of fate, the Massachusetts Cotton Mills Complex of Lowell, Massachusetts, which was partially demolished in 2016, had American yellow pine of the size and quality required. Eight 23-foot-long beams made the journey to Scotland in a shipping container and were craned above the roof of the structure. The library of the Mackintosh Building was perhaps the culmination of the architect’s design ethos. Built of rich tulipwood, the room rose the full height of the projecting oriels punctuating the Western elevation, divided into an upper and lower gallery. The ongoing replication of the library involved the construction of a full-sized library prototype replete with tulipwood sourced from the United States, and decorated with Mackintosh’s distinctive pendants and scallops. Through the analysis of the library’s charred remnants, the design team was able to unlock information regarding the joinery of the woodwork, allowing for the replication of assembly, nailing and detailing. The restoration of the Mackintosh building is expected to finish in spring 2019, with students returning back to the building in the autumn. For over a century, the building shaped and was shaped by generations of students. With this reciprocal relationship in mind, Iain King acknowledged that this authenticity cannot be restored to the building, but it can be reconstructed along the lines of the original design, "allowing future students to have their own memory of the building.”
Page/Park Architects selected to rebuild Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legendary fire-destroyed art nouveau Glasgow library
Glasgow, Scotland–based architecture practice Page/Park wowed judges in an international competition for the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art, whose legendary art nouveau library was consumed by a fire in May last year. While all 259 rooms were affected by the fire, with the bulk of the damage attributed to smoke, the flames demolished Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s library beyond recognition. Page/Park’s Piece by Piece submission comprised a room-by-room dissection of the building, a culmination of closely studying photographs and literature “from various periods and from every possible angle” to visually reassemble the library in its heyday. From there, 21st-century amenities can be integrated such as replacements for the vintage lighting and cabling—first installed when the building was completed in 1909. “The first job is to understand how it was originally constructed and secondly to understand the how it was changed over the last century, and on the basis of that if we know how it’s made we can make the decision how it’s going to be renewed if necessary or repaired for the most part,” David Page, head of architecture at Page/Parks, told The Guardian. Having worked on a number of Mackintosh-conceived projects, including converting the former Glasgow Herald offices into the Lighthouse Centre for Design and Architecture, the firm showed superlative insight into the Scottish architect’s oeuvre. In crafting its proposal, Page/Parks zeroed in on a single bay and post of the balcony—two elements repeated throughout the building—to recreate the library within the remains of its still-standing masonry shell. “Our knowledge has been supplemented by what was revealed by the fire—elements of the construction that were not possible to examine in full when the Library was intact,” the firm writes in Piece by Piece. Profiled rails, balcony pendants and scalloped balusters painted red, white, blue and green inform the interior’s art nouveau signature, but the proposal does not elaborate on whether these archaic fixtures will stay or go. Work is slated to commence in April next year, with the renovation being expected to conclude in 2018.
[Editor's Note: Following a devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art on Friday, May 23, the university has launched a fundraising campaign to assist with restoration and rebuilding efforts. To support the fund, donate online here. Work has been ongoing to assess the damage and salvage what remains. This article originally appeared on Witold Rybczynski's blog, On Culture and Architecture. It appears here with permission of the author. ] The tragic fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, raises anew the question: How to rebuild? In a thoughtful blog, George Cairns of Melbourne’s RMIT, who has studied the building in detail, points out that many undocumented changes were made during the building’s construction, so it will be impossible to recreate what was there. In addition, the inevitable demands of modern fire security will likely alter the original design. Rather than try to rebuild Mackintosh’s design, Cairns argues for “great architects to be invited to design a worthy intervention that will breathe new life into the school.” I’m not so sure. When the fifteenth-century canal facade of the Doge’s Palace was destroyed by fire in 1577, Palladio proposed rebuilding it in a Classical style, but he was over-ridden, and the original Venetian Gothic was restored. When John Soane’s Dulwych Picture Gallery was hit by a V-1 rocket during WWII, it was rebuilt exactly as it had been. In fact, the building had been altered several times since Soane’s death. Buildings are not works of art, time changes them, alterations regularly take place, life has its way. What’s wrong with repairing damage? Even if it is not exactly as it was, it could be almost as it was, and a hundred years from now, the difference will not matter. Surely that is better than a “worthy intervention”?
The Glasgow School of Art—considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh's masterwork—has caught fire, and early reports indicate that a large section of the building has been destroyed. Considered a "total work of art," Mackintosh fused arts and crafts elements with a robust, almost industrial structure, which, in many ways, presaged the development of modernism. Steven Holl Architects recently completed an addition to the building, which AN just reviewed. Holl and design partner Chris McVoy released the following statements. https://twitter.com/guardian/status/469857282088796160 "It is unbelievably tragic for architecture and the history of architecture. This is an unimaginably sad and deeply spiritual loss. We are thankful that all the students are safe. The loss to their future education is devastating," Holl wrote. McVoy added: "One of the most spiritual corners of this world has been devastated. We are so sorry especially for all the community of the School. Heartfelt wishes for resilience." According to the Guardian, firefighters are assessing the damage. Apparently the entire West Wing of the building has been lost. The GSA's Board Chair Muriel Gray released the following statement:
Today is a really black one for the GSA, but I cannot thank the fire brigade enough for the speed with which they came and their commitment to contain and extinguish the fire. Fortunately there have been no fatalities or injuries. I am so proud of the staff and students and how everyone has pulled together. We are thankful to all the Glaswegians who turned up to comfort students and to friends from across the world for their messages of support.