Façade ‘appears to be structurally solid’

Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, pictured in 2005

Source: Steve Cadman / Flickr

Glasgow School of Art, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, pictured in 2005

The Mac’s façade appears to be “structurally solid” according to initial assessments made from the street, the leader of Glasgow council has said.

Susan Aitken said it looked like what was left of the Mackintosh Building after the weekend’s devastating fire could be saved.

“We are certainly not writing off the Mackintosh building yet,” she said in an interview with BBC Radio Scotland.

Her optimistic view runs counter to early suggestions that the heat from the blaze plus the gallons of water sprayed by the fire brigade might have damaged the walls so badly the building would have to be demolished.

“Our intention and our focus will be to try to save that building and to find a future for it but it is very, very early days,” Aitken told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

“It is very early days but the initial assessments are that the facade, what remains of the building, is largely structurally solid,” she said.

Her remarks were based on what she admitted were superficial assessments since no one has been allowed inside. Until yesterday the fire brigade was still tackling pockets of fire in the building. Glasgow School of Art staff are expected to be given access to the site today.

The Guardian is reporting that building control officers and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have been comparing the building’s walls and roof joists with the 3D digital scan made of the building after the last fire to establish how significant the damage is to its sandstone walls.

It quoted a council spokesman saying the external fabric appeared to be rescuable with the possible exception of the eastern gable, which appears to have shifted slightly, because the walls are held together by the roof. It might be possible to rebuild the eastern gable brick by brick, he added.

A consensus is said to be growing among senior council figures, Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and HES that the 1909 grade A-listed building should be saved.

Glasgow School of Art fire

The aftermath of the fire

A spokesman for HES said that if the school decided to try and save it then the agency would support this.

“We are still examining all the options and obviously conservation is part of that,” he added.

Not everyone agrees that the building should be saved. Glasgow architect Alan Dunlop is calling for its demolition with a design contest held to find a replacement.

Specialists have estimated the cost of rebuilding the Mac at £100m – dwarfing the £35m cost of Page/Park’s restoration project which was still underway when the second fire broke out.

The HES spokesman said it was too early to talk about where the money would come from but that a panel of specialists had been established and one of its tasks in the months ahead would be to look in detail at funding options.

The school’s leaders met yesterday with Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, higher education minister Shirley-Anne Somerville and HES chief executive Alex Paterson to discuss the immediate response to the fire.

Hyslop said: “A multi-agency group of conservation experts has been established to advise on short- and longer-term issues. This group, which includes HES, will continue to play a vital role in the weeks and months to come.

“We are at a very early stage, with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service still working at the scene. Once a detailed assessment has taken place we will be able to assess any structural, engineering or other work required.”