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Glasgow School of Art Director on Mackintosh Building: ‘We’re Going to Rebuild’

A month after a fire tore through Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building for the second time in four years, the school’s director, Tom Inns, told The Guardian yesterday that the ravaged building will be rebuilt, ending a weeks-long argument between both architects and community members about whether to reconstruct the “Mack” or begin anew.

“There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building,” Inns said. The cost of rebuilding will be covered by insurers. The dismantling of the building’s usable facades began on Thursday, a process aided by detailed digital modeling.

Reactions in the wake of the fire were varied and passionate. While architect David Chipperfield argued for the 1909 building’s reconstruction, Alan Dunlop, an architecture professor at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said that he thought “any attempt to replicate the building is vainglorious and that we should have faith in the future,” according to Architects Journal. Meanwhile, in an essay written for artforum.com, Glasgow School of Art honorary professor Ray McKenzie proposed that the building be left as a ruin that would “stand as a silent witness to the value and the precariousness of history itself, and a potent symbol of the apocalyptic times in which we live.”

Both the cause of the fire and how the structure will be rebuilt remain unclear. Looking for inspiration, some experts have turned to the redevelopment of Berlin’s Neues Museum, which lay in shambles after World War II. Chipperfield, along with Julian Harrap, was behind the Neues Museum’s restoration, which wed dutiful restoration with new additions. Other architects, like the Edinburgh-based Charlie Hussey, called for a literal reproduction. “I would propose a complete and faithful restoration, stone by stone, timber by timber,” he said. Gillian Stewart, director of Glasgow’s Michael Laid Architects, disagreed. “I do not think we should recreate a slavish copy of the original, with its timber and 1900s building techniques, which let’s face it, are rather flammable,” she said.

Inns said he was confident the building’s reconstruction could be paid for by insurance and that it’s too early to speculate about whether further fundraising will be required.

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