Fire Ravages Glasgow's Mackintosh Building

TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

For the second time in four years a fire ripped through part of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building last weekend, leaving engineers, architects and historians in Scotland left to figure out if the 110-year-old masterpiece can be saved.

The Fire

No one was injured in the blaze, which reportedly broke out a little after 11 p.m. on Friday (June 15), calling 120 firefighters and 20 engines to the scene. By the time crews arrived, flames had spread to the neighboring Campus nightclub and the O2 ABC music venue (one of the region’s most popular concert spots).

The cause of the flames remains under investigation, just one of the questions now facing officials for the second time.

The building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and considered to be an art nouveau grade A-listed masterpiece, also caught fire in 2014 when a projector overheated and ignited flammable gases from a foam canister that was being used for an art project, destroying about a third of the building, including its library.

The building was still undergoing a 35-million-pound renovation from that incident, led by Kier Group, and was set to reopen next spring. Officials say there were no operational sprinklers at the site, something that many, including the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, are calling into question.

“… [It] should be realized that sprinklers can be fitted in buildings throughout construction on a temporary basis, as there is a considerable risk from fire during this period,” the association said.

The Reno

After the previous fire, officials used extensive measurements and imagery to create a 3D digital scan of the entire building, which will now be used to help establish how significant the damage is to the building’s sandstone walls.

“The external fabric of the building appears to be savable except for the eastern gable, which appears to have shifted slightly. This is because the walls are tied together by the roof,” said a Glasgow city council spokesperson, who noted that the eastern part could potentially be saved by taking it a part brick by brick.

“There is a consensus emerging that the intention of the building control people, [Historic Environment Scotland] people and the art school is to save the building,” he said. “Right now, people are operating on the understanding it will be savable.”

“I think you can write off any hope that anything is left internally, but the stone and steel is still holding up, so there is a good chance that you could have a facade retention structure in place and then begin restoration again,” noted Paul Sweeney, the Scottish Labor MP for Glasgow North East, who sits on the board of the Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. “We already have a critical mass of knowledge and craftsmanship built up from the last fire.”

Officials were also quick to note that many of the fixtures that were being reconstructed for the current renovation were being stored at a different location and were untouched by the blaze.

At this early stage, though, building experts estimate that if the building were to be reconstructed now, costs could exceed 100 million pounds.

What Now

Crews were working through the weekend to find and douse any remaining hotspots, and as of Monday afternoon the earliest officials say they can let engineers and other investigators inside the building is Wednesday.


Tagged categories: Accidents; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fire; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Safety

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