Among reports of the tragic fire at the Mackintosh School of Art, Ike Ijeh’s piece asked the positive question of how the building should be rebuilt
At a time when everyone else was focusing on the tragedy of the fire, Ike’s piece on the Glasgow School of Art squared up to the conservation debate on this the most hallowed of architectural sites. Should the repair be a facsimile restoration or should the ‘imprint of modernity’ be part of the renewal? It was a short piece that stoked a heated debate in our office and was the most memorable for it.
Philip Watson is design director at Atkins
Out of the ashes - the Mackintosh School of Art
The fire at Mackintosh School of Art was an admission that our buildings are as susceptible to damage as they ever have been, but it’s restoration will raise further questions
The fire that ravaged Glasgow’s seminal Mackintosh School of Art last week was a tragic though sadly familiar event. From Windsor Castle to Crystal Palace, history is littered with great works of architecture that have been consumed by flames. It is a chastening admission but despite all our advances in technology and prevention, once a fire has started, then our buildings are probably as susceptible to the damage and destruction wrought by one of nature’s most violent elements as they ever have been.
The fire at the Mackintosh was all the more tragic because the building represents a kind of architecture that is all too rare today, both personal and emblematic. With its intricacy and idiosyncrasy of detail the Mackintosh School of Art was undoubtedly the branded, virtuoso work of its gifted creator. But it also grew to represent both a city and an age, recalling a time when art and architecture could seamlessly combine to speak to an audience wider than itself.
The fire at the Mackintosh was all the more tragic because the building represents a kind of architecture that is all too rare today, both personal and emblematic.
Luckily, the damage was not so severe that the building cannot be restored and both Westminster and Holyrood, pre-independence referendum at least, have committed funds to its renewal.
But interesting times lie ahead because it is unlikely that the Mackintosh will avoid the restoration quandary that often arises after such events: should it be restored as an exact facsimile of what was lost or should the imprint of modernity inform what rises from the ashes? In its restoration, the Mackintosh is likely to offer as much to the conservation debate as its original design.
Ike Ijeh, architectural correspondent