MP vows ‘the Mack will rise again’ after devastating blaze

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The Glasgow School of Art “will be saved”, its director has said, as warnings the building may need to be torn down were branded “reckless” by the local MP.

Their comments come amid growing recriminations about how contractors and university officials approached safety before the devastating blaze that gutted the Mackintosh building, four years after an earlier fire.

The art school englufed by flames on Friday night. Picture: John Devlin

The art school englufed by flames on Friday night. Picture: John Devlin

GSA director Tom Inns said the Mackintosh building “will be saved in some form” after joining a team of experts that was able to enter and assess the building’s condition for the first time since Friday’s fire.

“This building is not beyond saving, absolutely,” Prof Inns said after entering the building for the first time following the 72-hour firefighting operation.

Staff from the art school’s simulation and visualisation department joined experts from Glasgow City Council, Historic Environment Scotland and specialist structural engineers to create a 3D image of the building, as well as collecting photographs and aerial drone footage.

Muriel Gray, GSA’s chairwoman, said she was “optimistic” following the visit.

Aerial footage of the Glasgow School of Art shows the extent of the damage following the fire at the weekend. Picture: GSA

Aerial footage of the Glasgow School of Art shows the extent of the damage following the fire at the weekend. Picture: GSA

READ MORE: Watch: Drone footage shows aftermath of Glasgow School of Art fire

She said: “There is a huge desire to see Mackintosh’s masterpiece rise again, one which we all share.

“We have incredibly detailed information on the building collated over the last four years and have worked with teams of talented craftspeople who were doing a tremendous job on the restoration.”

She added: “Once again the Mack confounds us – I think it’s sending out a message it will not be defeated.”

Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken said the building was “largely structurally solid”.

Prof Inns said he wanted the Mackintosh to return to its previous role as a place for learning and creativity.

“In my mind, the Mackintosh building only works if it’s got an art school inside it,” he said.

“It has to have creative activity inside it to be the Mackintosh building. However the building comes back in its physical state, it has to have that creative activity inside it or it’s not complete as a ­building.”

Raising an urgent question about the GSA fire in the House of Commons, Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss said speculation about the building’s future had been “unhelpful”.

And the Glasgow North East MP and shadow Scotland minister Paul Sweeney, who made his own assessment of the building on Sunday, said claims the shell of the building may need to be torn down were “reckless”.

Mr Sweeney, an engineer, told the Commons: “The Mack will rise again.”

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said there was no need for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fire.

“We stand ready to help, as we did in 2014,” he said.

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art engulfed in flames for a second time

Restoration of the building could cost upwards of £100 million, experts fear, dwarfing the £35m bill for work following the previous fire.

Anguish has given way to anger over the precautions put in place after the blaze four years ago. One former senior member of staff at the GSA called the events of last week “a tragic story of hubris”.

Writing for the Scottish Review, Eileen Reid – a former head of widening participation at GSA – claimed that fire safety concerns were not ­taken seriously before the 2014 blaze.

“Much of the anger is about GSA’s refusal to take any responsibility – for either fire,” Ms Reid wrote. She also claimed university staff “repeatedly warned that GSA was at serious risk of fire”, but were told “to remain tight-lipped after the first fire”.

Concerns have also been raised about restoration contractors Kier Construction, after the firm was criticised in an inquiry into work it did on the DG One leisure centre in Dumfries.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said it was “shocking that this particular company was in charge of the ­restoration of the most important piece of Scottish art ever produced”.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop cautioned MSPs not to “accuse other institutions” until the end of an investigation by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

But yesterday Mr Sweeney accused Kier and university authorities of “already celebrating that the building was getting restored before they’ve even made sure the basics are in place” in terms of fire safety.

He questioned why CCTV, thermal imaging cameras and a direct line to the fire service had not been installed.

In a statement, Kier said it had implemented a comprehensive fire safety strategy, including heat and smoke sensors and 24-hour security patrols.