Fire devastates world famous art school

The world renowned Glasgow School of Art has suffered severe damage after a fire ripped through the listed Charles Rennie Mackintosh building.

No-one was injured by the blaze, which started in the basement of the building where it is believed a projector exploded and ignited foam-based material.

According to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service more than 90% of the structure “remains viable” and 70% of its contents have been saved.

But the famed Mackintosh library, which contained hundreds of rare periodicals and collections, was destroyed, along with a large number of works of art and the roof of the west wing.

Students and staff crowded into the streets surrounding the art school in Renfrew Street, Glasgow city centre as the blaze took hold.

Many wept and comforted each other as they watched the fire extend upwards through the floors, with flames billowing from the roof of the Category A listed building.

Seekee Zhang, a second-year painting and print-making student, said:  “We could see smoke coming out and we didn’t know what was going on, then the windows started to crack.

“The building was evacuated, and we started to see the flames coming out behind us. It was shocking. There are a lot of people crying.”

Zhang said that the majority of the old building had been cleared out to accommodate the upcoming final-year degree show. Many students were in the building working on their presentations when  the alarm was raised.

Anna Sundt lost all her work in the burning building.

She said: “I was four hours away from finishing a four-year degree.

“Each degree student was creating their own individual studio in the old building. Of course the most important thing is that everybody is safe, but it’s the opportunity that everyone working in there has now lost. It was our one opportunity to show friends, family, the art world, our work, and it’s all gone.”

Firefighter Alasdair Hay said that crews had responded within four minutes of receiving the original 999 call, and “resources from across Scotland” had rushed to deal with the fire.

At its height a total of 200 fire fighters with 17 appliances battled to bring the flames under control.

Author and broadcaster Muriel Gray, chair of the board of governors of the art school and a former student, arrived at the scene as soon as she heard the news. “I don’t know what to say. This building is so important to the world. It’s one of the most important buildings in my life.

“I am so proud of the staff and students and how everyone has pulled together. We are thankful to all the Glaswegians who turned up to comfort students and to friends from across the world for their messages of support.”

Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, said on Twitter: “Thoughts with staff & students at @GSofA – awful to see destruction of this iconic building and students work.”

Glasgow School of Art’s Professor Tom Inns paid tribute to the emergency services.

He said: “The SFRS (Scottish fire and Rescue Service)  did not simply go the extra mile but a marathon in their efforts to ensure that as much of the Mackintosh Building and student work as possible was protected.

“We have been overwhelmed by the number of messages of support from the local community in Glasgow and friends across the world, and the generosity of individuals and organisations in offering expert assistance to help us in these difficult times.”

Assistant Chief Officer Dave Goodhew, incident commander, said: “This is a beautiful building with a great heritage, truly loved by the people of Scotland.

“The fire started in the basement and soon spread to the roof. It is a very old building so we knew it would be a particularly difficult fire to fight and extinguish.”

Following the fire an anonymous “Thankyou” banner was draped across a statue of a fire fighter in the city.

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