Glasgow School of Art fire – library lost but much of the building saved

The Mackintosh library at the Glasgow School of Art has been lost to a fire which tore through the building on Friday.

The art nouveau library was a key part of the building, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and completed in 1909.

However, GSA says much of the remainer of the building has been saved. It says the 1897-99 part of the building, which includes the Mackintosh Museum, Mackintosh Room and Furniture Gallery, has survived intact. The GSA Archives have also escaped damage.

The main part of the damage, GSA says, is in the 1907-09 part of the building, which includes the library.

Muriel Gray, chairwoman of GSA, says, ‘Bad news first is that we have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh library. This is an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated.

‘But the most amazing, almost miraculous news is that the majority of the building is still intact. Due to one of the most astonishingly intelligent and professional pieces of strategy by the fire services, they succeeded in protecting the vast majority of the building, apparently by forming a human wall of fire-fighters up the west end of the main staircase and containing the fire.

‘Also after ensuring no lives were in peril they displayed an impressive understanding of the precious nature of the building, and due to their careful and meticulous handling of each developing situation the damage is considerably less than we dreaded. We have run out of words with which to thank them, but the school has most certainly gained a new gallery of heroes.’

Gray adds, ‘Tragically many students have lost some or all of their work, but many others have had theirs preserved, and curators and academic staff can expect to be allowed to enter the building in the next few days to try and assess what can be salvaged. The joy that our archives are safe combines with the delight in seeing most of our beloved building bruised and battered but most certainly not destroyed.

‘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 Scottish Fire and Rescue Service says that 90 per cent of the building’s structure and 70 per cent of its contents – including students’ work – can be saved. Final year students are understood to have been preparing for their end-of-year show when the fire hit.

Around 200 firefighters and 16 appliances attended the scene of the blaze, which broke out on Friday afternoon. Firefighters remained on site over the weekend.

SFRS chief officer Alasdair Hay says, ‘Those involved in this incident were predominantly drawn from Greater Glasgow and they were certainly very aware of the importance of the Mackintosh to the city. We have all been conscious of the fact this is also a building that houses the hard work of Glasgow School of Art students, especially at this time of year.

‘By working very closely with staff from the art school, we were able to identify items and target our efforts to recover items of great importance and save everything that could possibly be saved.’

GSA is currently retrieving student works, its archive and its collection from the building.

Professor Tom Inns, director of GSA, says, ‘The first priority is to retrieve any of our archive and collections in need of immediate conservation, followed by student work which will, where necessary, be given over to experts for conservation work ot be undertaken.’

All staff and students were evacuated from the Grade A-listed building when the blaze hit. It is understood to have broken out in the basement and spread rapidly throughout the building.

The police and Fire Investigation Unit are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire.


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