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Glasgow School of Art: New fire prevention system was due to be fitted

image copyrightScottish Fire and Rescue
image captionThe library was completely destroyed in the blaze

Glasgow School of Art, which was severely damaged by fire, has revealed that a new fire suppression system was due to be fitted in the Mackintosh building over the summer.

The school said it was "tragically ironic", but said there was no way of knowing if the system would have made a difference to the spread of the blaze.

Friday's fire completely destroyed the school's iconic library.

But fire crews managed to preserve most of the building and its contents.

They include the archives, museum and and lecture theatre.

The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) said the new system would have enhanced the fire safety measures in place, but did not include sprinklers due to the risk of water damage.

media captionFirefighters begin to remove items from the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building

The main damage was to the west wing of the building, built between 1907-09, Professor Tom Inns, Director of the GSA said.

The 1897-99 part of the site, including the Mackintosh Museum and Mackintosh Room, has "survived intact", he added.

Degree-show preparations

Final year students had been preparing for their end-of-year degree show in the building when the blaze broke out.

Academic staff said their priority was to help them complete their work and graduate.

They confirmed that some students will have lost all their work and said they wanted to ensure they were supported.

Staff will also be looking for new studio space for the fine art students and will also need to re-house other departments based in the Macintosh building.

Archivists, academic staff and disaster recovery specialists have been removing documents and art works from the building.

image captionDocuments and art works are being removed from the art school

The whole campus is to remain closed next week so the fire-damaged building can be cleared and precious work stored in other buildings.

It will reopen to students at 10:00 on Friday.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said more than 90% of the structure was viable and they had protected up to 70% of the contents.

image copyrightGlasgow School of Art
image captionIt is not yet known how much damage has been caused to the library, recognised as being one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world

The fire broke out at the listed building at about 12:30 on Friday.

About 200 firefighters were involved, with 16 appliances at the scene at the height of the operation.

Assistant Chief Officer Dave Goodhew, who was incident commander for about eight hours, told BBC Scotland, it was an "extremely challenging" fire.

"This is a beautiful building with a great heritage, truly loved by the people of Scotland," he said.

"The fire started in the basement and soon spread to the roof. It is a very old building so we knew it would be a particularly difficult fire to fight and extinguish."

image captionAssistant Chief Officer Dave Goodhew said the fire was one of the most difficult he had been to

He said the walls were lined with wood which created hidden voids where the fire could travel unseen.

Mr Goodhew said firefighters had created a fire break through the middle of the building, using crews with breathing apparatus and jets, to prevent the fire spreading to the other half of the building.

He added that the professionalism of firefighters had been "absolutely outstanding".

"It was one of the most difficult fires I have ever been to", he added.

Chief officer Alasdair Hay said: "The firefighters who responded to this incident demonstrated incredible courage, skill and determination to prevent the complete destruction of this iconic building and its contents.

"Choosing to fight a fire of this scale from inside the building is a risk for firefighters and requires the highest standards of professionalism.

"Those involved in this incident were predominantly drawn from greater Glasgow and they were certainly very aware of the importance of the Mackintosh to the city.

"We have all been conscious of the fact this is also a building that houses the hard work of Glasgow School of Art students, especially at this time of year."

He added: "By working very closely with staff from the art school, we were able to identify items and target our efforts to recover items of great importance and save everything that could possibly be saved."

'Enormous blow'

A joint investigation with Police Scotland will get under way into the circumstances surrounding the fire.

Some students have suggested it could have started in the basement when a spark from a projector caught a piece of foam.

The destroyed library, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was recognised as being one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world.

image copyrightScottish Fire and Rescue

Broadcaster Muriel Gray, who is the art school's chairwoman, said its loss was an "enormous blow".

The UK government has said it would make a significant contribution towards the costs of restoring the building.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it would contribute "in the millions, if necessary" to restore a "priceless gem".

Scotland's Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, said it was "truly heartbreaking" to see the Mackintosh Building in flames and said the Scottish government would "support the funding effort required".

On Saturday an ecumenical church service was held at Renfield St Stephens in Bath Street for those affected by the fire.

Greatest masterpiece

The Mackintosh building, completed in 1909, is "unique" in that it is a working art school as well as a work of art.

It has an A list rating, meaning it has been classified by Historic Scotland for its age and rarity.

From the facade to the fixtures and fittings every detail shows the craft of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, lauded as Scotland's most influential architect and designer.

image copyrightAlisdair Woodburn

The art school building is considered by many to be his greatest masterpiece.

He was a 28-year-old junior draughtsman at a Glasgow architecture firm when he drew up the designs for the building, which features distinctive heavy sandstone walls and large windows.

The dramatic art nouveau design took about 12 years to be completed, opening in 1909, but it signalled the birth of a new style in 20th Century European architecture.

The president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Iain Connelly, said the value of the building "goes well beyond Glasgow or even Scotland".

In recent years, Glasgow School of Art has produced many of the UK's leading contemporary artists such as Douglas Gordon and David Shrigley and three recent Turner Prize winners: Simon Starling in 2005, Richard Wright in 2009 and Martin Boyce in 2011.

Other former students include actors Robbie Coltrane and Peter Capaldi and artist Peter Howson.

Related Topics

  • Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
  • Glasgow
  • Glasgow School of Art

More on this story

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