Fire crews have saved The Glasgow School Of Art, a masterpiece of 20th century architecture by Charles Rennie Macintosh. The one hundred year old building caught fire when a projector in the basement exploded, just before 12:30. It quickly engulfed the wood panelled library destroying 30% of the priceless interior and also some the contents of classrooms, housing the fine arts department. The roof space was still alight this evening. It is feared that large parts of the art school will now need to be rebuilt.
Everyone in the building was said to have escaped safely. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it was working with art school staff to identify and salvage some of the most significant artistic treasures from inside the building, where conditions were described as “arduous”.
At the time of the outbreak, final year students were preparing for their end of year degree show, in the building. The deadline for submissions to the degree was 17:00. It has not been confirmed whether or not a student exhibit was responsible for the blaze. SFRS Chief Officer Alasdair Hay said there had been “significant spread” of flames within the building but would not comment on speculation that it did not have an operational sprinkler system installed.
Mackintosh was 28 when he designed the building which is constructed in heavy sandstone, with an oak interior and large windows. The Art Nouveau building took 12 years to complete. It opened in 1909 and is considered one of the greatest modern buildings in the world.
Many important artists have graduated from the institution including David Shrigley and Turner Prize winners: Douglas Gordon, Simon Starling, Richard Wright, and Martin Boyce in 2011. Other famous alumni include Robbie Coltrane and Peter Capaldi.
Born in Glasgow on 7 June 1868, Mackintosh was apprenticed to a local architect John Hutchison, but in 1889 he transferred to the larger, more established city practice of Honeyman and Keppie. In 1896 Mackintosh gained his most substantial commission, to design a new building for the Glasgow School of Art. This was to be his masterwork. Significantly, the building was constructed in two distinct phases, 1897-99 and 1907-09, due to a lack of money. Stylistically, the substantial delay in completion offered Mackintosh the opportunity to amend and fully integrate his original design (of 1896) which owed much to Scotland’s earlier baronial tradition with a second half to the building that looked very much to the 20th century through its use of materials and technology. Most dramatic of all the interiors was the new Library (completed in 1909), which was a complex space of timber posts and beams. Its construction owed much to traditional Japanese domestic interiors but ultimately the building was an eclectic mix of styles and influences. Apart from being one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture, the building is a major tourist attraction drawing millions of visitors to the city.