The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is dealing with the aftermath of a fire on May 23 that consumed much of the building’s west wing, destroying the library and studio above it. According to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, 90 percent of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed structure remains viable, and firefighters recovered around 70 percent of the items inside.
The 1897-99 part of the building — including the Mackintosh Museum, Mackintosh Room, and furniture gallery — has survived intact, as have the GSA archives. Broken glass panes are all that remain of the library, built between 1907 and 1909. Conservationists from Historic Scotland have been working with GSA’s archivists to save vulnerable materials. The Mackintosh archive is currently drying out across the street at the Reid building.
The library in the Glasgow School of Art, with furnishings designed by Mackintosh, was destroyed in the fire. Photo courtesy Glasgow School of Art
At the time of the fire, fine art students were preparing for their graduation exhibit in the west wing. As many as 100 students who lost their work in the blaze will receive studio space for up to six months and a living allowance as they re-create their portfolios.
"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," art school director Tom Inns said in a statement.
Damage sustained at the Glasgow School of Art. Photo courtesy of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
The GSA hopes to restore the library with the help of plans, drawings, and photographs archived in a subbasement that was unaffected by the fire. As a first step toward reconstruction, the school’s Digital Design Studio has laser scanned the building’s Western Gable to create a 3D plan. Historic Scotland specialists have used the plan to mark up stones, which will be conserved and protected at the Glasgow Cathedral Depot for reinstatement at a later date.
The school reports receiving tens of thousands of pounds in online donations alone, with the Scottish government saying it would match up to £5 million ($8.4 million) raised by the GSA for the building’s restoration. A webpage has been established to outline the practical and financial ways people can help with the restoration.
“If it takes five or 10 years to restore the library properly, that’s the time we’ll take,” GSA spokesperson Lesley Booth told the Globe and Mail.