It is hard to think, out of all the great and historic buildings in the British Isles that might be lost to fire, of any destruction more heartbreaking than that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art. It is not just that it is “one of the very best buildings of the early 20th century anywhere in the world”, as the Glasgow-raised writer and architect Douglas Murphy says. It is also that its particular spirit grew from its life as a working art school ever since its first phase opened in 1899.
The creativity of Mackintosh and his craftspeople, in other words, was not the end of the story, but the setting for that of decade after decade of students. His design allowed their exploration: the rare delicacy of its stained glass and metalwork was combined with bare concrete and rough boards that bore the marks of punishment. It was perilous to be so fragile and workmanlike at once, a riskiness that contributed to the first of its two fires, started in May 2014 by a student project going wrong. Read more