Glasgow School of Art will be back as a ‘working art school’ but restoration is mired in delays

The Glasgow School of Art before the two fires Photo: Steve Cadman

Almost two years after the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) was destroyed in a fire, the debate over whether the landmark Art Nouveau building should be rebuilt continues. But plans for relaunching the school, affectionately known as “The Mack", can only move forward once the investigation into the cause of the blaze is complete. “The reason the project has gone under the radar is because the investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing,” says the architect Alan Dunlop, a visiting professor at Robert Gordon University.

The GSA, which is considered Charles Rennie Mackintoshs masterpiece, was completed in 1909. In June 2018, the school was extensively damaged when a blaze tore through the historic venue. The building was nearing the end of a £35m restoration following a previous fire in May 2014 when the east wing was left relatively intact but major parts of the library and west wing were destroyed.

“The GSA has committed to rebuild the Mackintosh Building and to bring it back as a working art school. The first priority is ensuring that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) get all the access they require to the building to complete their investigation into the 2018 fire,” a spokeswoman says.

Last June, the BBC reported that investigators were entering the final phases of their probe into the fire; earlier this year a further delay into the investigation was announced when the art school said that the forensic examination led by the SFRS would begin on 24 February and last around 24 weeks. A spokesman for the SFRS tells The Art Newspaper that the investigation is ongoing, adding that “the excavation is currently subject to Covid-19 restrictions”.

“I think the narrative around the future of the building has changed, with the emphasis now on restoration rather than replication of the original school. In other words, we should save whats left of the building and put in a modern insertion. I think a model could be the conservation of the Neues museum in Berlin by David Chipperfield [completed in 2009],” Dunlop says.

Early last year, the school was criticised by the culture committee of the Scottish Parliament which said that the GSA did not give sufficient priority to safeguarding the building. The GSA subsequentRead More – Source