Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow School of Art: Firms bid to restore Mackintosh building

Mackintosh building, GSA Image copyright GSA
Image caption The iconic Mackintosh building was badly damaged in the fire

Glasgow School of Art has announced the five architecture firms who have been shortlisted to lead the restoration of its fire-damaged Mackintosh building.

They are Avanti Architects, John McAslan and Partners, LDN Architects LLP, Page\Park Architects, and Purcell.

The firms will submit their plans by mid-March. The successful bid will be announced at the end of March.

The Grade A-listed art nouveau Mackintosh building was badly damaged in the blaze on 23 May.

An investigation by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service concluded it was caused by flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam.

The report, released in November, said the gases ignited as they came into contact with the hot surface of a projector in Studio 19.

'Strong record'

The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) aims to raise £20m towards the eventual cost of restoration.

Liz Davidson, Mackintosh Restoration Project director at GSA, said: "All of the shortlisted practices have a strong record in undertaking major restoration and work in historic buildings, together with an impressive commitment to the use of new technology and the finest craftsmanship.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Mackintosh library was destroyed in the blaze on 23 May

"They each bring the level of experience and expertise that is vital to the restoration of Mackintosh's masterpiece.

"We are now looking forward to hearing more about their proposed approaches."

Inside the Mackintosh

Pauline McLean, BBC Scotland arts correspondent

It's not the blackened walls or the sooty statues which are the strangest part of any visit to the Mack at the moment, but the vacuum left by students and staff.

True, there are still plenty of people around. Fluorescent-jacketed workmen securing the upper part of the building, and forensic archaeologists still sifting through the ashes of the library, but no students hurrying along the corridors, reading in the library or working in the studios. Those famous front doors, constantly swinging in and out, are still and like the rest of this building, awaiting restoration.

Image caption Fire damage inside the Mackintosh building

Today, five firms have been shortlisted for the task. Not only one of the biggest restoration projects of the moment, but one of the most high-profile. The world is watching - and the aftermath of the fire and subsequent restoration appeal suggests the world holds this building dear.

The debate has already begun about whether the restoration - of the library at least - should be faithful to the original, or as modern and clever as the original once was.

All five companies have enough experience of the heritage sector to know there's a fine balance to be struck between new and old. And that modern social media means the public will have much to say.

The contenders

London-based Avanti Architects' past portfolio includes the project to bring back into use Alfred Waterhouse's 1887 Victoria Building at Liverpool University and the restoration of the iconic Art Deco Midland Hotel in Morecambe.

Edinburgh, London and Manchester-based John McAslan and Partners' past projects include the restoration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's re-design of 78 Derngate in Northampton and the restoration of Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff's Grade-I listed De La Warr Pavilion.

Edinburgh and Forres-based LDN Architects LLP have a range of past heritage projects, including Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford House, Strathpeffer Spa Pavilion and the A-Listed Fort Augustus Abbey on Loch Ness.

Among the projects in Glasgow-based Page\Park's historic buildings portfolio are the redevelopment of Glasgow's Centre for Contemporary Art, the recent refurbishment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the conversion of Mackintosh's Herald Building into The Lighthouse architecture and design centre.

UK and Hong Kong-based Purcell's historic building projects have ranged from the redevelopment of Hong Kong's 1841 Central Police Station to work at Kew Palace, Knowle House, The School of Arts in Chatham and the National Mining Museum in Scotland.

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