Glasgow School of Art fire: Full damage of blaze at Rennie Mackintosh building revealed

The priceless Mackintosh Library has been destroyed, but there is hope for the rest of the city's unique School of Art

ARTS CORRESPONDENT

The "iconic and unique" Mackintosh Library has been destroyed in the fire that ripped through the Glasgow School of Art, it emerged yesterday, as the UK Government pledged to put up "millions" to help to restore the building.

Tom Inns, the art school director, inspected the damage to the world-renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh building with two experts yesterday after the fire that raged for more than five hours on Friday was fully extinguished.

Muriel Gray, chair of the board of trustees at the school, revealed the library's fate yesterday afternoon. "We have lost the iconic and unique Mackintosh Library. This is an enormous blow and we are understandably devastated," she said. She pledged to restore the library "as faithfully as possible".

The Mackintosh Library was described as "one of the great interiors of the world", by Stephen Hodder, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). It housed rare and archival materials from periodicals dating back to the early 19th century as well as original Mackintosh furniture and fittings. He said he felt a sense of "bereavement" when he learned about the fire. "I never thought I'd feel so emotional about the loss of a building. It's great so much has been saved but the loss of the library is terrible. It's irreplaceable."

Marcus Lee, partner at architectural practice LEEP who was a student at Glasgow School of Art in the 1970s, said the craft of the building "was an inspiration to all us students", adding: "The library was the gem of the building's interiors."

The Scottish fire brigade's achievement in saving most of the building was hailed last night. Ms Gray described their efforts as "one of the most astonishingly intelligent and professional pieces of strategy by the fire services". This included forming a human wall of firefighters up the west end of the main staircase and containing the fire. As a result, more than 90 per cent of the structure remains intact and 70 per cent of the contents were saved.

Firefighters worked through the night to secure the Category A-listed building which caught fire early on Friday afternoon. It is believed to have started by a faulty film projector igniting foam in the basement. As many as 17 crews fought for several hours to control the blaze.

Crowds gathered in front of the building on Renfrew Street in the centre of Glasgow as flames engulfed parts of the building and the roof. Many – students and teachers among them – were in tears. Students had been preparing their degree shows. Ms Gray said: "Tragically many students have lost some or all of their work, but many others have had theirs preserved." The curators and academic staff will be allowed into the building in the next few days to assess what can be salvaged.

Firefighters continued to secure and protect the building and its contents last night.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, visited the site yesterday and said there that the UK Government would make "a significant financial contribution" towards rebuilding this "priceless gem". The Scottish government had committed to doing "all it could" to assist rebuilding. "At the moment we don't know the precise extent of the damage or what the costs will be, so I can't put a figure on it, but the Chancellor and I have spoken this morning and we both think it's appropriate," he said. "It's a hugely important building not just for Glasgow and Scotland but the whole of the United Kingdom".

RIBA, which has voted it the finest British building of the past 175 years, described the fire as an "international tragedy". Mackintosh is seen as one of Scotland's greatest architects and the art school considered his greatest masterpiece. The school was completed in 1909 after 12 years and it attracts 20,000 visitors a year.

Katy Lithgow, National Trust head conservator, welcomed news of how much of the building had been saved. "That is better news than was going around the conservation network on Friday and certainly better than the pictures suggested. It now seems there's something to work with."

She described the next steps as a "triage process". Once the firefighters have secured the building, building specialists will come in and establish the structural stability. Then salvage teams will remove objects from the site. Some of the materials will need emergency work by conservators; others will be blast frozen to preserve them. "The problems won't just be the fire but the amount of water poured into it," Ms Lithgow said. "Things tend to collapse inwards. There will be a layer to unpick like an archaeological dig."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee CAD Technician

£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000+

£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a lead...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss