News Column

Experts confident school of art can rise from the ashes

May 28, 2014

EXPERTS involved in some of Britain's most prominent historic restorations say that the fire-damaged Glasgow School of Art can rise from the ashes.

Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace and Cutty Sark, the 19th century ship, have all been the focus of multi-million pound rehabilitation projects even though they appeared devastated by fire.

Firefighters say they managed to save about 70 per cent of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building's contents after Friday's fire.

And the Scottish Government said it is to provide up to pound(s)5 million match-funding for GSA's Mackintosh Building Fire Fund which has been set up to allow donations to help restore the site. Sir Donald Insall, founder of Donald Insall Associates, a practice which has spent over half a century tending to the needs of the nation's historic buildings and was at the centre of the Windsor Castle restoration, said there remained hope.

The 1992 blaze meant the castle was extensively damaged but few large items were completely destroyed and five years later under the guidance of a Restoration Committee, headed by the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, it was restored.

Sir Donald said: "This was such a major and tragic architectural disaster for Glasgow and the nation but in our experience it is quite amazing how skilled craftsmen can still be found, given the chance to show off their skills. One of the principal problems we had at Windsor was water damage.

"The many who worked on the restoration of Windsor will be backing and keenly supporting them in their challenging task."

Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of the blaze which gutted the Cutty Sark and Richard Doughty, its director, said their experiences would benefit those tasked with any restoration of The Mac. The tea clipper, built in 1869, reopened in 2012 following a pound(s)50m conservation project.

"We were able to bring together crafts people, as I am sure will be the case in Glasgow, to ensure the building can live up to the glories that it once had in the Mackintosh designs," he said.

"All the time I was travelling there, I thought we had lost the ship. But the extraordinary thing is, despite the fact was that the ship was alight from stem to stern, the Cutty Sark now is still the same, the timbers, that are bolted onto the iron frames are the same timbers which sailed to the South China Sea."

Dr Steven Brindle, historian with the conservation agency, English Heritage, which was at the centre of another restoration project after a disastrous fire at Hampton Court Palace in 1986, said the prospects of the School of Art being restored properly were "excellent".

He said: "What they must not do is just clear the gutted area out, because the debris, and the fire-damaged area will have all manner of material which will be essential for its accurate restoration.

"It is a unique masterpiece by a very great man. It is one of Glasgow's great treasures. Glasgow must not be fobbed off either by claims it can't be restored or with the specious argument that what Mackintosh would have wanted was to design something new as a contemporary statement for the modern age.

"What is needed here is authentic restoration."

Meanwhile, the School of Art is creating bursaries to help students who lost work in the fire which aims to give them studio time to develop and make new work to rebuild their portfolio.

MARTIN WILLIAMS


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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