Fire fighters have fought a blaze for the second time in four years at the Glasgow School of Art’s historic Mackintosh building. This time the destruction is far worse: construction experts fear that the shell of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s landmark building will have to be torn down. To rebuild “the Mac,” as it is known, could cost at least £100 million ($132 million), the newspaper reports, “or double that,” according to Bill Hare, a professor of construction management at Glasgow Caledonian University.
The devastating fire broke out late on Friday night at the Scottish art school. Hundreds of firefighters tacked the blaze, which has left the building a smoldering ruin with parts in danger of collapse. The fire spread with rapid intensity, damaging the Campus nightclub next door as well as the O2 ABC music venue. There were no casualties. The First Minister of Scotland, Nichola Sturgeon, visited the site and praised the rescue services.
The fire in the art school started just as a £35 million ($46 million) project to restore the Art Nouveau building was underway, after another fire had destroyed the school’s Mackintosh-designed library in 2014. A sprinkler system was being installed as part of the restoration work. The 2014 fire was started accidentally by an art student’s project, when gases from a foam canister were inadvertently ignited. It has been reported that firefighters are confident they will be able to determine the cause of this second fire.
One of the oldest art schools in the UK, Glasgow’s alumni include Douglas Gordon, Simon Starling, and Jenny Saville. It has produced eight Turner prize nominees and two winners: Gordon and Starling. There has been an outpouring of empathy from the art world in response to the fire. Scottish painter and former alumni Alison Watt took to Twitter among many other notable alumni. “My heart is breaking,” she wrote. “I just can’t watch the footage of Glasgow School of Art in flames. I feel physical pain. It’s unbearable..”
In 2014, the US architect Steven Holl completed a new building for Glasgow’s celebrated art school. Known as the Reid, it is across the street from “the Mack,” and escaped damage on the weekend’s fire.