Fire Destroys Iconic Library at Glasgow School of Art

A fire on May 23 destroyed the library at Glasgow School of Art, the landmark building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Tom Inns, the school's director, told The Guardian that 90 percent of the art school itself remains viable and that there were no injuries. The school initially feared the loss of students' graduate degree show projects, but much of their content was saved.

Library interior; image courtesy of Glasgow School of Art

Muriel Gray, the art school's chairwoman, told The Guardian that destruction of the Mackintosh library was "an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated."

Indeed, the building's architectural significance has been heralded since its inception in the late 1800s. In a UK-wide poll conducted by the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Glasgow School of Art was deemed the best building in the past 175 years.

The Art Nouveau library, built between 1907 in 1909, houses thousands of rare manuscripts and first editions, long with handcrafted furnishings by Mackintosh. The studio above the library also was destroyed, but the Mackintosh museum and furniture gallery remain intact. Archivists have begun to retrieve collections that need immediate conservation.

Exterior view of building; image courtesy of Glasgow School of Art

Initial reports indicate that the fire started after a projector exploded in the basement and sparked foam. Inns said the school has "huge ambitions" for the library once the damage from the fire is fully assessed. However, a proper restoration could take three to five years, according to architect John McAslan, who restored Mackintosh's 78 Derngate in Northampton.

"Fire damage requires stabilizing, and that's a painful process," McAslan told The Guardian. "This is a piece of forensic repair that needs to be done beautifully."

Click here to see photos of the fire's aftermath.