Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh rebuild chosen as preferred option, but work may take six years to start

Rebuilding the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building as a “faithful reinstatement” of the one destroyed by fire three years ago is the preferred option for its future, art school chiefs have said.

The world-renowned building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was extensively damaged when a fire broke out late on June 15, 2018 as it neared the end of a £35 million restoration project following a previous fire in May 2014.

A strategic outline business case (SOBC) for the Mackintosh Project, which involved a rigorous analysis of the options for the building, was carried out and narrowed down to create a short list of deliverable ones – faithful reinstatement, hybrid and new build – which were further tested against a “do minimum” option.

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Inside the Mackintosh Building after the 2018 fire. Picture: McAteer Photograph / GSA / SWNS

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) said the business case demonstrated the best option was to undertake a faithful reinstatement within the practical constraints of the regulatory environment, and the preferred option would now be further considered.

However, the restoration could take up to six years to start, with building work set to begin between 2022 and 2027.

Professor Penny Macbeth, director of GSA, said: “The original Art School building is synonymous with The Glasgow School of Art and it was central to the GSA’s learning, teaching and research for over a century, as well as being an important part of Glasgow’s cultural life and heritage.

“One of the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s culture, tourism, Europe and external affairs committee report was that we should examine a range of options for the future of the building, and the strategic outline business case has done just that, subjecting each of them to a rigorous analysis.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at the Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building in 2018. Picture: John Devlin

“Core to the SOBC was a programme of stakeholder engagement and I should like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took part in this programme, including our external steering group, led by Professor John French, for their vital contributions and insight.

“We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders throughout the project.”

Faithful reinstatement would comprise a full reinstatement of the Mackintosh Building, including retaining and reusing the remaining structure.

This includes the reuse of the existing foundations and remaining stone/masonry external walls, and remaining internal walls and floors where possible.

The existing external walls would be supported by a new temporary facade-retention structure, if necessary, to allow the construction of a new internal frame, into which the external walls will be tied to create a new solid structure.

Spaces such as the library, boardroom, director’s office, Mackintosh Room, lecture theatre, studio 58, the Hen Run, Loggia, Museum and Studio 11 would be reinstated, together with all the other spaces, including studios.

This option also takes account of compliance with the latest building regulations.

GSA said the preferred option addresses the key success factors in each of the areas of the business case and will benefit the nation, students, the community, academia and the economy by delivering GSA’s academic objectives.

The preferred recommendation will face more detailed evaluation at the outline business case stage, which will look in more detail at areas including financing.

More than 120 firefighters tackled the 2018 blaze at its height. The flames also took hold of nearby music venue the 02 ABC.

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