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The Glasgow School of Art was severely damaged after a fire ripped through the iconic building during the night on June 15. Photo: Peter Swanton.

Fire Devastates Glasgow School of Art for the Second Time in Four Years

The Glasgow School of Art in Scotland was gutted by a fire that ripped through its historic Mackintosh building during the night of Friday, June 15. More than 120 firefighters and twenty engines were called to the site to battle the blaze, which spread to nearby structures, including the campus’s nightclub and the O2 ABC music venue, before they could contain it. No casualties have been reported.

This is the second time in four years that the school’s iconic Art Nouveau building—considered architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece—has been ravaged by a fire. It had been badly damaged in 2014, when an overhead projector ignited solvent in a student’s artwork, and was undergoing a $42.5 million restoration. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Peter Capaldi were among those who championed the project.

Professor Thomas Inns told the New York Times that the 2014 fire was “a significant catalyst in how we think about space.” The restored building would have included a new fire-safety system. It was expected to reopen next spring. Known for its distinctive library, which boasted fin de siècle chandelier lighting, wrought colored balustrades, and ornate furniture, the building welcomed more than 25,000 visitors a year and was often described as the city’s architectural jewel.

According to The Guardian, residents nearby said the heat was so intense it could be felt several feet away. People were evacuated from the immediate area surrounding the school, and a number of roads were closed so that firefighters could use water from the Clyde River as they worked to put out the blaze.

On Saturday, Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called the scene “heartbreaking.” She said: “There are assessments and discussions ongoing with the fire service and building control about the structure of it and its structural safety. Obviously all of us hope the building can be saved but I think it’s too early to draw any conclusions from that.”

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service deputy assistant Peter Heath said that while no one has been able to assess the extent of the damage yet, it is clear the fire affected all floors of the famed building and that the roof is completely gone.

Commenting on the destruction, the school issued the following statement: “The Glasgow School of Art’s immediate focus is on our students and on the continuing operation of the GSA to ensure minimum disruption to students and staff.” It continued: “The GSA and all of its buildings will remain closed for the next week, and we will provide updates as and when information is available.”

Students were shocked by the tragedy. Many of them had graduated from the school earlier in the day. Alumnus Peter Swanton wrote on Twitter: “I was standing in front of the Mac 4 years ago as it burned. I had just finished my first year of art school. I never thought I would see the same scenes being repeated.”

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