Mackintosh fire update

Wreckage inside the Mackintosh Library. (Glasgow Fire and Rescue via BBC)

Wreckage inside the Mackintosh Library. (Glasgow Fire and Rescue via BBC)

The conversation in Glasgow about how to restore the school and its library has moved into a phase that pits faithful restorers against reinterpretive restorers, who presumably would want to apply their own aesthetic tics in fiddling with the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The former are, thankfully, far more numerous, apparently. Here is a summary of that debate from It also includes a description of some of the funds and funding sources that give rise to hope that the building will be restored in full, along with as much of its content as possible. It is amazing how spirits have risen since the gloom on the day of the fire. There has been a lot of luck involved and also a lot of courage and intelligence in how Glasgow public services and the school’s own professional staff responded to the blaze. Many thought the entire building was lost. Thankfully that is not so, far from it.

Below is one of the latest descriptions, sent in by Niall Murphy to the TradArch listserv (an online discussion among classicists), of what has been saved, specifically in regard to the library’s famous archive (as opposed to the Mackintosh Library, whose collection has been lost but whose physical elements can probably be reconstructed), and of the extraordinary courage and firefighting savvy of the Glasgow Fire & Rescue Service.

Good news on the archive front. Glasgow’s Herald newspaper is reporting this morning that: “School of Art library staff, working with volunteers and Historic Scotland, worked in what was described as a ‘late-night human chain miracle’ to salvage the archives, which have become a famed source for research.

“The School of Art’s archives and collections comprise a wide range of material from school records to artworks and architectural drawings, textile pieces, plasters casts, photographs and furniture. A School of Art spokeswoman said: ‘All the Mackintosh works on paper that were in the archive have been retrieved.’

“The School of Art received advice from the conservation team of the National Registers of Scotland as part of the project to salvage the archive.'”

[Niall adds:]

Also, from some of the photographs I’ve seen it looks as though the fire spread right along the west wing corridor of the building. The paint on the woodwork and metalwork is badly blistered. It appears that only the fire doors stopped it spreading into the heart of the Art School. A human chain of fire fighters fought it back. This could have been a whole lot worse…

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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