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Glasgow School of Art will be Rebuilt But it Could Take a Decade

Following a devastating fire, iconic building to be rebuilt ‘as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimetre’ according to chairwoman

Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building on fire, 16 June 2018. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Robert Perry

Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building on fire, 16 June 2018. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Robert Perry

Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building on fire, 16 June 2018. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Robert Perry

Glasgow School of Art’s iconic Mackintosh building, gutted by a devastating blaze in June, is to be rebuilt. In comments made to BBC Scotland, the chairwoman of the school’s board, Muriel Gray, said that rebuilding the Mackintosh was ‘non-negotiable’. But she admitted that it might take up to 10 years before students could use the building, calling that the ‘biggest tragedy’.

Gray, herself a GSA alumnus, said that previous reports of a GBP£100 million price tag for rebuilding the building had been ‘plucked out of the air’ and that the school had ‘absolutely no idea until we know the scale of damage.’ Gray suggested that no further public funds would be required, and that rebuilding costs could be supported by insurance money, charitable funds and fundraising left over from 2014, when the school was the victim of a previous fire. The school had been nearing completion of a multi-million-pound restoration when it was hit by fire again this summer.

The blaze this year caused extensive destruction to the historic building, which dates back to 1909, triggering debate about the Mackintosh’s fate: whether it would need to be completely demolished, be rebuilt according to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original blueprints, or make way for a new building altogether.

In a survey commissioned by frieze this year, key GSA alumni – the Turner Prize winners and nominees Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips – commented on the future of the building. ‘There is a strange vanity to the idea that this moment could be an opportunity for new architecture. The fire has no meaning or significance, it’s not a sign of anything. We have an architect and a building and it’s one of the greatest. It is crystal clear to me that the building must be rebuilt,’ Boyce told frieze.

Gray also acknowledged that the building could be rebuilt to Mackintosh’s designs, which are preserved in the GSA’s archives. ‘The roads lead back to Mackintosh, absolutely and non-negotiably,’ Gray told the Herald on Sunday. ‘It will be beautiful. It will be as Mackintosh designed it, to the millimetre.’

Architect Kengo Kuma, who designed the recently unveiled V&A Dundee – which features a reconstruction of the historic Mackintosh-designed Ingram Street Tearooms which was demolished in 1971 – called for the GSA building to be rebuilt in tribute to Mackintosh. According to The Times, Kuma said: ‘I have visited Mackintosh’s buildings and the art school was the best. I very much like the detail. It is worth rebuilding. I was so impressed and surprised by the effect of natural light. It was a magnificent building.’

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