Glasgow School of Art appoints architects to rewrite Mackintosh Building rebuild plan

The Mack as it looked in March 2012 PIC: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesThe Mack as it looked in March 2012 PIC: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The Mack as it looked in March 2012 PIC: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Glasgow School of Art has appointed two architecture firms to lead the revised plan to restore the Mackintosh building.

Reiach and Hall have been appointed with Purcell to “robustly test” the Art School’s existing rebuild plans before it begins the process of restoring the fire-ravaged Mackintosh building.

In May, the school conceded that work to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece at the Glasgow School of Art, which was decimated by two fires in four years, will not be complete in the next decade. The stark admission came as work that has been undertaken since 2018 ground to a halt as legal wrangles took precedence and an arbitration process with their insurers began.

Costs will be above the initial £100 million estimate as Professor Penny Macbeth begins the process to restart the project, hiring the new set of architects and consultants to devise a new plan for the project, discarding previous targets.

“This bit is taking longer than we thought. It’s difficult for the city. It’s difficult for the residents. We totally appreciate that. We are fully aware that if it takes longer it will cost more,” she told The Times. “The most important thing for everybody, however, is that this is done brilliantly.”

The school submitted an insurance claim after the 2018 fire. A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service report into the second blaze determined that the cause would never be known conclusively.

“Following publication of the report insurers requested further information which the GSA provided to enable them to confirm policy cover,” a spokesman said.

“In the absence of this confirmation the GSA has chosen to initiate arbitration. The arbitration process is subject to a confidentiality provision which means we are not able to disclose any further details”.

Professor Macbeth said: “This process could take a while. It’s taken us quite a bit of thinking over whether to do it, but we feel we need to get clarity. Working with insurers around a fire is a difficult piece of work. It can be frustrating. We need to move the process on.” Should an insurance claim not be approved, the art school would request assistance from the government to secure funding.

A new plan for the building with revised costs will be published in early 2025. Work to date has totalled around £18 million, funded by interim payments from the insurers. An original GSA risk management analysis categorised a delay of more than six months with the project as “catastrophic”.

The two architectural practices will now be asked to “identify the appropriate route to delivery of the faithful reinstatement” of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed 1909 landmark.

Reiach and Hall with Purcell will go back to an earlier brief testing and direction-setting stage,  working to update the existing 2021 strategic outline business case.

According to the school, this new plan, which is due to be published early next year, “will ensure the GSA can make evidenced-based decisions, ensuring the Mackintosh Building is successfully rebuilt as a working school of art and contributes to the regeneration of Sauchiehall Street and Glasgow City Centre”.

The architects will start work immediately, alongside cost and economic consultants, to “robustly test the GSA’s previous assumptions, costs and economic impact, timelines and approaches to delivery of this significant project”, Architects Journal reports.

The restoration work will extend beyond the original 2030 deadline for completion. Work is unlikely to resume at the site, currently under fire-retardant wrapping, until 2026.

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