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Fire Rages in Glasgow School of Art’s Historic Mackintosh Building [Updated]

by Mostafa Heddaya on May 23, 2014

Mackintosh_School_of_Art_Glasgow

The front (north) facade of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art on Renfrew Street (image via Wikimedia)

A blaze erupted around noon GMT at the Glasgow School of Art’s historic Mackintosh Building, completed in 1909, the Scotsman reported. The fire in what the paper called “one of Scotland’s most important pieces of architecture,” built by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, appears to have been started by the heat of a projector igniting a foam art installation. The full extent of damage is unclear, but reports indicate that the fire has spread throughout Mackintosh’s masterpiece. New York magazine architecture critic Justin Davidson notes on Vulture that although the “thoroughly documented” building could be reconstructed, much could be lost to the flames:

The sandstone walls and iron frame may conceivably survive, but not the spectacularly idiosyncratic interiors: the wood-paneled library with its creaturelike writing desks, the baronial doors splattered by generations’ worth of paint, the carved wooden railings, the ingenious interlocking of slender beams, the enclosed loggia called the “hen run.” All that handcrafted detail has likely been carbonized beyond recognition (along with the work of hundreds of students who were in the process of installing their year-end projects).

The fire has been covered extensively on social media, with eyewitnesses taking to Twitter to post images:

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Update, 2:42pm EDT: Muriel Gray, chair of the board of trustees of the Glasgow School of Art, has issued the following statement:

Today is a really black one for the GSA, but I cannot thank the fire brigade enough for the speed with which they came and their commitment to contain and extinguish the fire.

Fortunately there have been no fatalities or injuries.

I am so proud of the staff and students and how everyone has pulled together. We are thankful to all the Glaswegians who turned up to comfort students and to friends from across the world for their messages of support.

Update, May 25, 12:40pm EDT: There are some signs that much of the famed Charles Rennie Macintosh building at the Glasglow School of Art has been saved. Firefighters saved 90% of the structure and up to 70& of its contents, but the renowned library — the centerpiece of the building — didn’t make it:

“We have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh library,” said Muriel Gray, the school’s chairwoman. “This is an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated.”

She added that the majority of the building remained intact. “Due to one of the most astonishingly intelligent and profession 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,” she said.

The government has pledged millions of British pounds to support efforts to restore the building, which according to one architect, who recently restored another Macintosh building, could take three to five years.

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