Second Fire almost Destroys the Glasgow School of Art

Fire blazes through the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building on 16 June 2018. ‘The heart of Glasgow’s Mackintosh legacy has been ripped away.’ Photograph: Scottish Fire Service Handout/EPA (theguardian.com)

A ferocious fire has devastated – probably destroying the 50 percent irreparably – the School of Art, a masterpiece by the Scottish architect Rennie Mackintosh. The building was famous because, together with works by Victor Horta, Henry Van de Velde, Adolf Loos and the American Louis Sullivan, represented a peak of that style that marked the passage from nineteenth-century eclecticism to modernity, functionalism and even twentieth century rationalism.

The Mackintosh Building as been extensively damaged on 15 June 2018 by a fire that started in the evening (the first fire call has been received at 11:19 pm). The cause of the fire is not known. It could have been caused by a small fire that burned for some time and then accelerated or it could have grown rapidly. When the Fire Service arrived soon after the alarm was raised, there was a fully developed fire. Since the upper floors and roof seems to  have suffered more damages, the fire could have started on the upper levels and burned down through the building.

Although interiors were destroyed and the exterior extensively damaged but much of the stone exterior had survived.

The building had been previously damaged by fire on 23 May 2014, caused by a canister of expanding foam used in close proximity to a hot projector, causing flammable gases to ignite. The fire service estimated that 90 per cent of the building and 70 per cent of its contents had been saved. According a report from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service the design of the building contributed greatly to the spread of the fire. In particular allowed flames, hot gases, and smoke to travel:

  • the number of timber lined walls and voids;
  • the original ventilation ducts running both vertically and horizontally throughout the building;
  • a vertical service void which ran the entire height of the building;

At that time time, moreover, the fire suppression system had not been completed.

The 2018 fire occurred when a £32million renovation work was undergoing  (expected to be completed in February 2019). In this case, fire damages seems to be heavier, and their severity can be attributed to the reconstruction works undergoing, which made the building much more vulnerable to fire (new sprinkler system had not yet been fitted as part of the restoration following an earlier blaze). Although interiors were destroyed and the exterior damaged, much of the stone exterior had survived.  If the building will be saved, the cost will be at least  £100m .

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