An overpowering fire ripped through the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building on Friday night, causing even more damage than a previous blaze in 2014. By Saturday, government officials began to investigate the damage, and fears mounted that the structure may be beyond repair. “The roof is gone completely,” Iain Bushell, a deputy chief officer with the Scottish fire and rescue service, told the Guardian. “We cannot get in yet to assess the damage. I can only see from the street but it looks as if the building has been extensively damaged.” More than 120 firefighters were called in to fight the flames, but luckily no students or faculty were injured.
Restoration efforts from the 2014 fire, caused by gases from a foam canister bursting into flames in one of the building’s studios, are estimated to have cost around £35 million and were nearly completed when Friday’s fire broke out. Hope emerged on Sunday that the historic building’s facade may be able to be saved. But experts, speaking with the Guardian, said this much more extensive restoration could cost around £100 million. Questions have been raised as to why a sprinkler system was not installed in the building following the previous fire. In a story on the BBC, Billy Hare, deputy director of the Beam Research Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, asked city officials not to make a hasty decision regarding whether or not to level the iconic building, though he added that it may not be salvageable.
The Glasgow School of Art was founded in 1845, and the current building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was first completed in 1909. The school holds an important place within British contemporary art, with artists such like Douglas Gordon and Jenny Saville among its alumni. Last year, those two artists, along with 23 others, including Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, made works out of the ashes from the 2014 Mackintosh building fire in order to raise funds for its restoration.