On Friday 23 May came news that a raging fire had broken out at the famed Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. Scores of firefighters battled to preserve as much of this cherished Grade I listed building as possible and, despite initial fears for the worst, it now appears that more than 90% of the structure is viable and firefighters have saved up to 70% of its contents. Final year students had been preparing for their end of year degree show when the fire broke out.
There was an outpouring of grief across the internet as reports swept social media and online publications that the Mackintosh Building, designed in phases by Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1897 and 1909, was ablaze. This dismay was felt not only by current and past students but across the city of Glasgow and wider to the international art and design community.
Director of The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) Professor Tom Inns released the following statement: “In the aftermath of Friday’s fire the GSA was overwhelmed with offers of support including offers of studio space from the Scottish art schools and from a broad portfolio of other art colleges in the UK, Europe and USA.
“The beating heart of the GSA is its students and our priority is to ensure that all those most seriously affected by the fire are given the opportunity to rebuild their practice. The GSA will therefore create special bursaries which will enable the students to have sufficient studio time to develop their practice and make new work.” Scottish Government will also provide up to £5m match-funding for the GSA’s The Mackintosh Building Fire Appeal.
A statement from GSA Chairwoman Muriel Gray confirmed that the treasured Mackintosh Library was ‘lost’ but praised the ‘careful and meticulous handling’ of the situation by the attending fire services who allegedly formed ‘a human wall of firefighters up in the west end of the main staircase’ in order to contain the fire. After the blaze was extinguished, a placard reading ‘Thank You’ appeared around the neck of Kenny Hunter’s Citizen Firefighter sculpture in Glasgow city centre.
Gray continued: “As for the library, Mackintosh was not famous for working in precious materials. It was his vision that was precious and we are confident that we can recreate what was lost as faithfully as possible.” The conversation has already begun in many circles as to who may be up to the task of tackling the restoration of the famed Mackintosh Library. Whoever it may be, they can be sure that the world will be watching.
Should you wish to support the Glasgow School of Art going forward, please email Director of Development Alan Horn.