Glasgow School of Art urged to rethink Mackintosh Building plans after fire investigation called for lessons to be learned


The investigation concluded that arson, electrical failure and accidental ignition, including from a discarded cigarette, could not be ruled out as possible causes.

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However, the inquest report “strongly suggests” that lessons were learned from the fire, stating that there was “little doubt” that buildings were at greater risk of damage once construction work was underway.

Managers of large construction projects are urged in the official report to “fully consider the risk of fire” in the future, saying they must appoint “competent persons with the appropriate skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience to ensure the existing health and safety. legislation and safety regulations are properly applied”.

The report also calls for fire safety training for all construction site personnel and “robust verification and monitoring” of work to ensure risks are identified at an early stage.

The investigation report stated that the Mackintosh building was in a vulnerable condition and at increased risk of fire due to restoration work following the 2014 fire.

He said ducts that were part of the ventilation system likely helped the fire spread.

The iconic Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in just over four years in June 2018.

Heads of the Glasgow School of Art, which announced in October that they would prioritize a “faithful restoration” of the Mackintosh building, pledged to conduct a “lessons learned exercise” on all aspects of the restoration project.

However, Professor Alan Dunlop, one of Scotland’s leading architects and an outspoken critic of the art school, has said it was now clear the building could not be replicated.

He said: “The investigation has clearly been challenging and the result, while disappointing, is a very detailed forensic analysis.

“Unfortunately, no conclusion has been reached as to the ‘possible origin’ or cause. This leaves us with many questions and less sure of a basis for moving forward.”

The iconic Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in just over four years in June 2018.

“However, the report does make a number of recommendations on fire awareness and construction safety.

“The report confirms that the fire was a ‘significant and catastrophic’ incident and that the building’s original ductwork ‘served to intensify the fire, promoting uncontrolled growth and rapid development.’

“Planning for 21st century building and fire regulations were not on Mackintosh’s creative agenda. The sweeping entrance stairway through the foyer and then onto the open first floor gallery; the double-height studios with corridors open access; stairs open at both ends; double height landings and the innovative camera system could not be replicated without much compromise.

“It should remain a working building that meets the needs of a contemporary art school and combines the new with all of the original salvageable structure while respecting Mackintosh’s unique legacy.”

The iconic Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in just over four years in June 2018. Image: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Christina Grainger, President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, said: “The Mackintosh Building is a true Scottish icon and one of the world’s architectural treasures.

“We would like to see the Mackintosh Building project create opportunities for today’s emerging Scottish architects and craftsmen. Hopefully the report will allow those efforts to move forward and we stand ready to help the Glasgow School of Art find the right solution to this important building. Hundreds of tons of debris were searched for months after the June 15, 2018 fire at the site where the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building was being restored after an earlier fire in May 2014.

Ross Haggart, Deputy Director of SFRS, said: “Our investigation has been a deeply complex and lengthy process.

“Due to the nature of the ongoing restoration and construction work combined with other factors such as the air supply to the building, unfortunately the fire was able to take hold, spread and ultimately cause catastrophic damage.

“This presented a number of challenges for our investigation, namely working within a structurally hazardous site to physically examine hundreds of tonnes of debris that was up to four meters high and highly compacted.

“We looked at every aspect of this fire to make sure our investigation was as robust and thorough as possible.

The iconic Mackintosh building at the Glasgow School of Art was devastated by a second fire in just over four years in June 2018.

“Unfortunately, almost everything inside the building was severely damaged or consumed in the fire and that included any potential pieces of evidence that could have provided those answers.”

In a joint statement from the Glasgow School of Art, Principal Penny Macbeth and Acting President Kristen Bennie said: “It has been a very difficult time for the city, and in particular for our closest neighbours, for students, staff and the property sector in general. who have been affected in countless ways by the two fires at the Mackintosh building.

“While the report is detailed and comprehensive, we share the frustration that many will feel that the exact cause has not been identified.

“Taking the time to thoroughly study and consider the report, particularly the recommendations, we will now conduct and share a lessons learned exercise on all aspects of restoration to inform future construction projects.

“The investigation report is an important milestone that allows us to advance the Mackintosh Project as it was described last October.

“We are committed to the faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh Building within the practical constraints of the regulatory environment, as an integral part of the GSA, as a key driver and catalyst for the social and economic revival of Garnethill and Glasgow, and as an example of sustainability for heritage buildings.” .

City Council Leader Susan Aitken said, “Many people, especially local businesses and residents who were displaced from their premises and homes, will understandably be disappointed that there is not a clearer outcome of this lengthy investigation.

“However, it is clear that officers from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have been extremely diligent in carrying out an incredibly complex investigation and I am grateful to them for their work.”

The Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building was devastated by the other four in just over four years in June 2018.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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