News ID: 114575
Published: 1157 GMT April 01, 2015

Glasgow School of Art to be restored by local firm Park

Glasgow School of Art to be restored by local firm Park

The challenge of restoring the fire-ravaged Glasgow School of Art has been revealed as the institution announced the architect’s firm entrusted with the project.

The fire at the Grade A listed building in May last year affected all 259 rooms. Most of it was smoke damage – thanks to firefighters, 90 percent of the building was saved – but the Mackintosh library, one of the world’s finest examples of art nouveau design, was completely destroyed, The Guardian said.

The historic status of the building makes its restoration a painstaking process, said David Page, head of architecture at Glasgow-based Page\Park architects, the winning firm.

“The first job is to understand how it was originally constructed and secondly to understand the how it was changed over the last century and on the basis of that if we know how it’s made we can make the decision how it’s going to be renewed if necessary or repaired for the most part,” he said.

“We took a bay of the library and basically examined it for three months in terms of how it was originally made. The fire has revealed things we didn’t know. For example, the columns in the library are made from eight different pieces and they were nailed together.

“That is something we’d never have anticipated – the idea that you had carpenters from Glasgow, probably working in the shipyards,coming in with hammers and nails. That was quite a discovery.

“We are going to continue that analysis of how that magical place was constructed and that allows others to take decisions on how the restoration takes place.”

The school’s director, Prof Tom Inns, said the firm’s appointment marked a significant day for the school.

He said key factors in the decision were Page\Park’s connection with the city and experience working across Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s designs, including the school of art itself, as lead designers for the Heritage Lottery Fund-supported Mackintosh Conservation and Access Project.

Amid the devastation, while conscious of the need to be faithful to Makintosh’s vision, the school and architects see the renovation as a chance to bring 21st century thinking to the building, which was completed in 1909.

Page said there was a “slight positive” to be gleaned that the renovation offered an opportunity to integrate in a more aesthetically pleasing manner modern add-ons such as heating and cabling that had been bolted on over the last century. And while the project might present the firm with all kinds of difficulties, he explained that it was a labour of love for him.

“As a student in Glasgow, we learnt about the city through its great architects, Mackintosh and [Alexander] Thomson,” he said. “So to be responsible at this stage of this process of looking after one of the world’s great buildings, to be able to care for this building, what more could you ask? It’s like a special person and you get to look after this person. When we were doing the analysis piece by piece, I loved it, it was like an architectural education.”

Page\Park will work with the school on the design process for the restoration for the next months, with the target for work to begin in April next year. Some of the work is expected to be completed in 2017, with the library’s renovation likely to be finished the following year.

Inns said: “It’s obviously a really significant day. It marks the beginning of the actual work that’s going to go into the restoration.

“Something like this [the fire] has an effect that changes over time. It had an emotional effect on staff and students who were in the building at the time or around the building. It [the decision] provides the opportunity to see the next stage.”

The restoration is being funded by the insurance payout, contributions from the Scottish and Westminster governments and money raised by the school.

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