Insurance for Mack rebuild?

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Sketch, 1896, by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Glasgow School of Art, 1897-1909. (scotcities.com)

Some spectacular good news about the Glasgow School of Art, whose main building, designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, burned down a month ago. It seems the school’s insurance may be enough to pay for reconstruction after its recent fire, which followed an earlier fire, not quite so destructive, by four years.

The news came last week from the U.K. Guardian in a story, “Mackintosh building will be rebuilt, says Glasgow school of art director,” by Libby Brooks, who quoted the GSA’s Tom Inns as follows:

Inns … said: “The building is insured and we’re confident that we can rebuild the building based on that.” He said it was too early to say whether further fundraising would be required – Brad Pitt led a star-studded appeal with a target of £32m after the 2014 fire – but he added: “At the moment we’re not requesting support from either government [Scottish or UK].”

That should pop the babble about rebuilding the school with a different design in order to “respect” Mackintosh’s famously ebullient creativity. The school’s head of architecture, Sally Stewart, further undermined that hope by some modernist architects. She said:

The beauty of the Mack was that in its design it really considered the internal environment needed for the disciplines that were housed in it. In terms of the light within the studios, how the studios were scaled, to tinker with any of that is really tricky.

A couple of questions remain. One is whether the building was torched. Investigators are looking into that. And why didn’t insurance pay for the restoration after the original fire in 2014? It was 80 percent complete when the second blaze erupted. Those of us who followed news of the first fire read a lot about efforts to raise funds to meet its £35 million cost of rebuilding. So far as I know, there was nothing about insurance. The new fire did much more damage, and may cost £100 million to rebuild.

That figure fed the flames of modernist aspiration this time around. Thankfully, these have been doused. Let’s hope.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. 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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and 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 invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, 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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