24 May 2014

‘Miracle’ that much of Glasgow School of Art saved

The majority of Glasgow School of Art has survived a huge fire, the art school’s chair Muriel Gray tells Channel 4 News, saying the iconic building is “bruised” but not destroyed.

After an inspection of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building today, the school revealed that the majority of the structure was “intact”.

Broadcaster Muriel Gray, the art school’s chairwoman, said the institution’s archives had also been salvaged.

She said: “Bad news first is that we have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh library. This is an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated.

“But the most amazing, almost miraculous news is that the majority of the building is still intact. Due to one of the most astonishingly intelligent and professional pieces of strategy by the fire services, they succeeded in protecting the vast majority of the building, apparently by forming a human wall of firefighters up the west end of the main staircase and containing the fire.”

Bad news is we have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh library. But the amazing, almost miraculous news is that the majority of the building is still intact. Muriel Gray, art school chair

She added: “Mackintosh didn’t work with precious materials, he worked with precious ideas… and we can rebuild that.”

Earlier, the fire service said that around 90 per cent of the building has been salvaged and up to 70 per cent of its contents saved.

Smoke could still be seen rising from the charred windows of the world-renowned building this morning, 24 hours after the flames took hold. The blaze began at Glasgow School of Art on Friday at 12.30pm.

‘Distressing time’

The fire service has yet to confirm the cause of the blaze, although some students have suggested it started in the basement when a spark from a projector caught a piece of foam.

Students were busy putting the finishing touches to their work in preparation for the art school’s annual degree show when the fire broke out.

Scotland’s Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “My thoughts are with the staff and students of Glasgow School of Art at this distressing time.

“The Scottish government will do all it can to help the school rebuild and to ensure that all those students affected are supported and can continue with their studies.”

The UK government has also said it will contribute to the costs of restoring the art school. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said the building was a “very important landmark” and said the government would contribute “in the millions, if necessary” to restore the “priceless gem”.

No one was injured in the fire but students, art lovers, architects and Glasgow officials spoke of their sorrow at seeing the iconic building in flames.

As well as housing one of Europe’s leading art schools, the listed Mackintosh-designed building, completed at the turn of the 20th century, is a tourist attraction in its own right.

Dave Boyle, assistant chief officer with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said last night: “Crews have been working absolutely flat out throughout this very challenging incident and it is clear their effort and skill has saved this treasured building and many of the items it housed.

“While the priority from the outset was to save life we have also been working closely with Glasgow School of Art (GSA) staff to ensure firefighters conducted an effective salvage operation.

“We are of course very conscious the Mackintosh is a world renowned building that is a key feature of this great city, and that the artworks it stores are not only valuable but also cherished.

“We are acutely aware this period is the culmination of years of endeavour for students and that their irreplaceable work is inside the Mackintosh. Work to save everything that can be saved is ongoing and we will continue to work closely with GSA staff and students throughout this operation.”