Students and staff were in tears after a fire broke out at Glasgow School of Art, where smoke could be seen billowing from the roof of the historic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building.
Students and staff were evacuated and flames could be seen through the scorched windows of the sandstone building on the corner of Renfrew Street and Scott Street.
Six fire engines were at the scene and crews on a laddered platform blasted the flames with a water jet. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said firefighters were on scene within four minutes of the fire being reported at 12:30pm.
A post on Twitter from the School of Art said: “The Mackintosh building is on fire, all have been evacuated & we will post updates as we get them. Currently setting up an incident number.”
There’s so much work and history in the building and it’s gone. Second year student Clare Reilly
The school’s chairwoman, Muriel Gray, was in tears as she surveyed the damage to the listed building, as were students standing outside. One student said she was in shock.
The building attracts around 20,000 visitors each year, who are taken on tours, according to the School of Art website.
Hugh Thornhill, a second year student, said: “I was helping one of the fourth years set up their exhibit and suddenly the alarm went off. We didn’t think it was anything but we had to go out and then we saw smoke coming out and realised that it was really bad.
“It got to the point where flames were coming out of the top floor.
“All that effort is gone, everyone’s work on that side of the building is ruined. Even if it didn’t catch fire it will be damaged extensively. The degree show next month is pretty much a bust now, it’s sad.”
Second year student Clare Reilly said: “Even the archive and library in there will be gone. There’s so much work and history in the building and it’s gone. I’ve got two years to go but we might not be allowed back in.”
Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said on Twitter: “Serious concern about fire at Glasgow School of Art.”
Shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran used the social networking site to say she had “just heard about terrible fire at Glasgow School of Art”, adding: “Hope people are safe.”
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who is an MSP for the Glasgow region, said the blaze was “dreadful news”, describing the art school building as “one of Glasgow’s finest”.
Apart from it being voted the best building of the last 175 years, it is a major tourist draw and has an incredible reputation as an art school. Austin Yuill, Glasgow School of Art employee
Austin Yuill, who works as a chef at the art school, told the BBC: “I’ve been moved two streets away from the Mackintosh building but before we left the place was completely ablaze all down the west side of the building.
“I’m told it started in the basement and it’s worked its way all the way up through the five floors.
“As far as I know it started from a spark which has gone on to foam, expanding foam.”
Asked how busy the art school was, he said: “It would be very busy because we’re working up to the end-of-year assessments, so all the students were installing their work today all over the Mackintosh building. There are a lot of very upset students here.”
He added: “Quite apart from it being voted the best building of the last 175 years, it is a major tourist draw and has an incredible reputation as an art school. This is really terrible.”
Internationally renowned artist Ken Currie, who studied at Glasgow School of Art, gave this statement to Channel 4 News –
“Flames engulfing the Mackintosh building is one of those sights you never ever want to see.
“I have family and friends that study and work there, and I was greatly relieved to hear that no-one was injured, that everyone got out safely.
The Mackintosh building is one of the most important pieces of Scottish art ever created – the work of a genius – of huge international significance. Ken Currie
“My heart goes out to all those students who have lost their work on the eve of their degree shows as well as all those who work there. I should imagine they must be in turmoil right now.
“I am not aware of the full extent of the damage but from what I can gather it already feels like a huge loss – a huge blow to Glasgow School of Art and to the cultural fabric of Glasgow itself.
“The Mackintosh building is one of the most important pieces of Scottish art ever created – the work of a genius – of huge international significance. I hope it can be rebuilt down to the last detail.”