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‘Faithful rebuild’ announced as favoured option for burnt-out shell of Mac

By 22/10/2021No Comments

Debris cleared from within the Mackintosh Building (2) ©McAteer

The Glasgow School of Art has announced it plans to “faithfully rebuild” the Mackintosh Building which was twice destroyed by fire.

Reinstating Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s grade A-listed art college is the university’s preferred choice, it said today, after a comprehensive examination of all the options commissioned just before the pandemic last year.

The options examined during the strategic outline business case (SOBC) process included demolishing the remaining structure to make way for an entirely new building, moving the school to a new site and a hybrid model.

“Through extensive consultation and robust economic analysis, the SOBC demonstrated that the best option is to undertake a faithful reinstatement within the practical constraints of the regulatory environment, while innovating to make sure that digital technology and sustainability are at the building’s heart,” the GSA said in a statement issued this morning.

“The case for a landmark development that not only reinstates, but builds on, the illustrious heritage of the original Mackintosh building is overwhelming.”

The GSA has now begun a detailed analysis of its preferred option including costings.

The Mackintosh Building (north facade). Photocredit McAteer

A spokeswoman said it was too early to say when a design team including an architect would be appointed but that this would happen through an “open and transparent procurement process” in line with the HM Treasury Green Book guidance and Scottish Public Investment Manual.

The school anticipates work starting on site before 2027 when the GSA’s current five-year plan ends, with the building opening before the end of the next five-year plan in 2032.

The Mac, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and dating from the turn of the last century, suffered two catastrophic fires in recent years. In 2014 the celebrated library was destroyed by a blaze that began in a projector at an end-of-year show.

Inside the Mackintosh Building after the 2018 fire. Photo ©McAteer

Page\Park was appointed to lead what was then a restoration project. But just as that work was nearing completion in 2018 a much more severe fire engulfed the building, destroying all but the envelope and part of the frame.

Page\Park is no longer working for the GSA. The spokeswoman said any firm that was interested and eligible would be able to apply to work on the rebuild project in due course.

The SOBC process – carried out by external consultants led by Hub West Scotland – assessed the options against a list of strategic, economic, financial, commercial, sustainability, social, cultural and educational criteria.

The scene this morning at Glasgow School of Art

GSA director Professor Penny Macbeth said the rebuild option would have numerous benefits including enhancing the student experience and the school’s world-class reputation as well as protecting the nation’s heritage.

As project sponsor she chairs the Mackintosh Project development board which reports to the school’s governors. The Mackintosh steering group is chaired by Professor John French, a fellow of Wolfson College Cambridge and an expert in sustainable development. Project director is Eleanor Magennis, GSA director of estates.

The school said: “This governance structure brings together a wide range of relevant skills, knowledge and expertise and will be augmented by specialist external resources to help develop and deliver the project.” It also promised ongoing stakeholder engagement and risk management.

Fire engulfs the Glasgow School of Art

>> From the archive: If the Mac can be built once it can be built twice

>> Alan Dunlop: ‘Don’t rebuild the Mac: We need to accept it’s gone’

Comprises a full reinstatement of the Mackintosh Building including retained/re-use of the remaining structure. This includes the re-use of the existing foundations and remaining stone/masonry external walls and remaining internal walls and floors where possible. The existing external walls will be supported by a new temporary facade retention structure, if necessary, to allow the construction of a new internal frame which the external walls will be tied back into to create a new solid structure. Iconic spaces, such as the library, board room, director’s office, Mackintosh Room, lecture theatre, Studio 58, the Hen Run, loggia, museum and Studio 11 will be reinstated together with all the other spaces including studios. This option also takes account of being compliant with the latest building regulations.

The building will be enabled by state-of-the-art digital capabilities, it will be designed and developed using the latest sustainable technologies. Having digital and sustainability at the heart of the offer will provide a new and compelling opportunity for the GSA. While retaining an unequalled approach to creative enquiry, craft and making, the new facility will provide a rare opportunity to bring together the strengths of the GSA, providing both the physical and virtual interrogation of materials, artefacts and ideas. It will provide the GSA with a singular opportunity to interrogate emerging and traditional forms of practice, creative innovation and production within a world leading environment, enabling the school to develop and extend partnerships across the globe.

The GSA believes that the Mackintosh Project has the potential to be a catalyst for the social and economic regeneration of Garnethill and the surrounding commercial areas – in particular Sauchiehall Street. The project should not only be a sensitive response to the Mackintosh Building, but an exemplar of sustainability and a demonstrator project for world-leading place-based, co-designed, community regeneration.

This will be a building with convening power; it will attract influential figures who will collaborate with the GSA on a range of business, research and enterprise and community-led initiatives. Audience and community engagement will be transformed by the porosity of the space both through the physical and virtual domain. The iconic gallery, library and archive spaces, will enable us to reach new audiences and develop new tools for enquiry-led practice, bringing opportunities from the creative, digital and tech sectors for audiences of the future. This in turn will attract investment both in terms of research and innovation funding.

The Glasgow School of Art is one of only three UK art schools to consistently rank in the top ten of the influential QS world rankings for art and design. The original art school building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a quintessential heritage asset and synonymous with its global brand. Today a landmark development of equal calibre is required to support GSA in reaching its future ambitions, building on its illustrious past while continuing to innovate and reimagine creative practice for the future.

This iconic building will create an environment that will help boost Glasgow’s position as a leading creative and cultural global city, supporting the economy by providing graduates with high level creative, digital and cultural acumen, attributes necessary for the future creative economy.

>> From the archive: Building Design tours the Mac restoration with Brian Park in 2015

>> Also read: A philosopher’s contribution to the Mac debate

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