Saturday, May 24, 2014

Major fire at Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art

It was absolutely awful yesterday to see the pictures and videos of the fire raging through the iconic Grade A Listed Mackintosh building of the Glasgow School of Art (@GSofA)- designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
"The most important work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an architect of international significance, Glasgow School of Art is held in the highest regard by architects and the public alike - it was rightly judged to be the best building of the past 175 years in a nationwide [RIBA] poll."
[UPDATE: I've subsequently learned that the windows of the room on fire in the image above are the shallow bay windows of the iconic Macintosh Library which was constructed of wood and contained wooden furniture designed by Mackintosh. This article in the Telegraph confirms the damage and something of what happens next - Glasgow School of Art fire: 'Iconic' Mackintosh library destroyed]

Image from BBC Scotland Video of the fire
Glasgow School of Art: Fire crews battle to save building
The fire broke out at midday yesterday - just as the final year students were erecting their degree shows within the building.
Eyewitnesses said the fire appeared to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the building on Renfrew Street in the city centre.
BBC News
Reports indicated the fire started in the basement and spread up through the west wing of the building to the roof - which as you can see from the screendump from a BBC video has been very severely damaged.
Eye witnesses feared that the whole west wing of the old building has been lost, including the irreplaceable Mackintosh library and the Hen Run, a famous corridor running along the roof which linked the west and east wing.
First building 1899, second Building 1909 
Architect: Charles Rennie Mackintosh
The good news is that everybody was got out safely and there have been no casualties.

Plus the fire service has subsequently announced what has been saved.
"With the incident under control indications are the firefighters' efforts have ensured more than 90% of the structure is viable and protected up to 70% of the contents - including many students' work."
What I do know from fires is that what isn't destroyed by fire can easily be damaged beyond repair by the amounts of water required to put out a very fierce fire as this one obviously was.

It remains to be seen what has survived and what will need reinstatement. Surely there can't be any question but that this Grade A Listed building must be reinstated?

This is the page providing updates for the students and staff - which I am sure will also be of interest to all Glasgow Art School Alumni and those who were fans of the building

Besides being a wonderful building, this is also an excellent School of Art. Three of the current four nominees for the Turner Prize 2014 are graduates of the Glasgow School of Art as have been many in the past - see Graduates of Glasgow School of Art dominate Turner Prize nominees

Initially there were fears that all the work for final year degree shows - and assessment for their degrees - had been lost but the situation is now unclear. However a very reassuring message was sent to students
Students should not concern themselves about finishing work at this stage. Further information on assessment, degree show and graduation will be issued as soon as possible.
To see something of what may have been lost or damaged I looked through the internet.

Let's hope as much of this as possible has been saved or can be reinstated

The Glasgow School of Art: Studio from The Glasgow School of Art on Vimeo.

Another fire as degree shows assembled

The fire had strong echoes of the fire at the Pratt Institute in New York - again as graduates were assembling their final degree shows. This is what I wrote on this blog back in 2011.
The Pratt Institute in New York had a major fire in February 2011 in its main building which took nearly 170 firefighters to extinguish. It destroyed the studios of the Fine Art Seniors and their artwork for their senior projects which many will have spent months on. You can see pictures of the blaze on their Facebook page. Lots of people have rallied to the support of the students who lost their art supplies as well as their artwork.
Art supplies including brushes, canvases and other tools have been donated by a range of art supply stores, including Utrecht and Daler-Rowney, Pratt spokeswoman Jolene Travis said. More than 3,000 brushes have come in. The selection also includes personal contributions from faculty, Travis said, including some “used, very well-cared for and loved brushes tied in ribbons.”
Hopefully, the art materials and art supplies people in the UK will ask the Glasgow School of Art what they can do to help replenish any losses of art supplied by the students.

Why not keep an eye on the information for students page, and if it appears they have sustained losses of kit and materials, why not leave a message on the Glasgow School of Art Facebook Page or send them a tweet if you'd like to send them supplies for the students?

Plus why not give them a 'like' or a 'follow' by way of support?


  1. I'm in Berkeley, California and was devastated when I heard about the fire of this amazing building that I had always hoped to see. Being an artist and involved in architectural heritage & preservation this meant a lot to me. Thank you for your article, pictures and video. I love your blog.

  2. I'm in Berkeley, California and was devastated by the news of the fire of this magnificent building that I had always hoped to see. Being an artist and involved in architectural heritage & preservation this was upsetting news. Thank you for your article, pictures and videos. I love your blog.

  3. Thanks Lisa for your kind words about the blog.

    I think a lot of us hoped one day we would get to see that Library.

    The one wonderful notion that GSA Chair Muriel Gray left us with today was that Macintosh created ideas - and his ideas can be recreated again in wood and the Macintosh Library will be restored exactly as he planned it.

    I guess we can't say the same for the books.....

  4. As a retired architect, the Glasgow School of Art has been on my wish list of places to see for ages. What a tremendous loss....and here in the USA, the news services had not a word to say about it. Add to you many talents "newscaster"!

  5. I don't live that far away from Glasgow, a few hours if that, and always wanted to go see the building. Hopefully I will still get the chance once its restored.

    I can't imagine how heart broken any students are with all their work lost

    there was a fire at the show at Dundee Uni too, but nowhere on this scale


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