Glasgow Art school facing £35 million restoration bill

Glasgow School of Art. Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow School of Art. Picture: John Devlin
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A restoration of the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art building is expected to cost up to £35 million and be completed by 2018.

Work to bring the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building back to life is expected to get under way next summer, according to a timetable issued by the restoration team.

One of Scotland’s leading architectural practices has already been tasked with restoring it to its former glory. Page\Park Architects was selected from a five-strong shortlist.

The project will include a reconstruction of the landmark’s famous library, which was destroyed in the blaze last May. More than 75 firms from around the world expressed an interest in the restoration.

Potential main contractors for the work are being told the GSA is “fully committed to reconstructing and restoring the Mackintosh Building” to its former glory. A deadline for expressions of interest has been set for 18 December.

A spokeswoman for the GSA said: “A shortlist of companies will be issued with an Invitation to tender in February 2016. It is anticipated that the principal contractor will be appointed in early June 2016 with work starting on site almost immediately following appointment.”

Elizabeth Davidson, senior project manager for the restoration, said: “Today marks another important step in bringing the Mackintosh Building back into use. The appointment of the principal contractor will be the next critical stage in the restoration process.”

Students were putting the finishing touches to end-of-year projects when the fire caught hold at lunchtime on 23 May last year. The official investigation found the blaze was triggered by flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam.

They were set alight when they came into contact with the hot surface of a film projector in a studio being used by a student, who has never been identified.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service report also revealed that the rapid spread of the fire through the building, which dates back to 1909, was aided by the presence of original ventilation ducts and a large number of timber-lined walls. A new fire-prevention system was in the latter stages of completion and was not operational on the day. Firefighters received huge praise after managing to salvage 90 per cent of the Mackintosh Building and rescuing around 70 per cent of its contents, including the “vast majority” of the art school’s archives.

Forensic archaeologists began a painstaking sift through the iconic building, including the remains of its historic library, last November.

The 12-week operation to document and remove the remains uncovered parts of a studio clock and its mechanism, a silver salver, most of the metal from the lamps in the library’s iconic central light fitting and a number of rare books.

But 90 oil paintings, including two by Mackintosh himself, and around 8000 books and journals were all lost in the fire.