The multi-million pound project to restore Glasgow School of Art is “affordable” and may not require any public funds, its leader has said.

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh masterpiece building was extensively damaged when a blaze broke out late on June 15, 2018, as it neared the end of a £35 million restoration project following a previous fire in May 2014.

The first phase in the subsequent restoration to clear the debris and stabilise the building has now been completed.

More than 5,500 of tonnes of fire-damaged material have been removed from the site, with the help of archaeological experts, which will be recycled and returned.

Speaking as the first milestone was reached, GSA director Professor Penny Macbeth said: “We see the building as being very much for all, for the city, for Scotland.

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“Our vision for the Mackintosh Building is that it will be home for a GSA Graduate School.

“We will also bring back to their original use key spaces such as the drawing studios, because drawing is the engine of the art school.”

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art rebuild was "astonishing" says academic 

Art school leaders said the cost of the project, which has a completion date of 2030, was still being worked out, but confirmed it would be a six-figure sum.

 

She said the school was not yet at the stage of fundraising or approaching potential donors and is still concluding the insurance claim and outline business case.

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However she is optimistic that enough money can be raised.

Almost £1 billion was generated, mainly from private donors, after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was ravaged by a fire in 2019.

“We are very connected internationally,” said Prof Macbeth, who said the project already had ring-fenced funding, legacy insurance and interim payments and some fundraising revenue.

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She said the Scottish Government had been supporting the school in an advisory capacity but added: “We are working on a set of assumptions that we will be able to get to this ourselves and currently we are not having to ask for {financial] support.

READ MORE: MSPs press Angus Robertson on Glasgow School of Art fires

“We are not specifically fundraising for the building at the moment – we need to be absolutely clear.

“We are concluding the insurance case so it is absolutely clear what it is we need and where we need to go and that might be via donors or it might be other opportunities.”

Asked if the school would be approaching celebrities such as actor Brad Pitt, who has spoken of his admiration for Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eleanor Magennis, GSA director of estates, said “nothing is ruled out”.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) investigation was unable to establish how the 2018 blaze started and recorded the origin and cause as “undetermined”.

But it told how fire warning systems were inadequate, as were fire mitigation measures, and there were no working sprinklers.

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While police were unable to rule out wilful fire-raising as the cause, Ms Magennis said art school leaders do not believe this was the reason for the blaze but said work is “ongoing” in this area for insurance purposes.

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) carried out a meticulous stone-by-stone evaluation assessing what could be retained and what should be taken down.

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An architect for the rebuild is expected to be appointed by spring, with a construction firm recruited by next year.

Over the next two years a temporary roof structure will be put in place  while technical drawings are completed before construction work begins.

READ MORE: GSA fire report: Director shares frustration over conclusion 

Prof Macbeth said she was not party to any discussions that suggested GSA might not pursue the rebuild.

“What I would say is, we have really bolstered the team of experts now," she said.

"It’s a much larger team, out of necessity, than the one we had in 2014.”

Ms Magennis added: “We are committed to reinstating the building through retention of as much of the original fabric as possible.

“In the coming weeks we will begin the process of reinstating the internal structure, which supports the building, and construction of the temporary roof structure.”

The project to rebuild the school, for a second time, has been met with some criticism, given the significant costs.

Professor Alan Dunlop, an architect himself and a long-time outspoken critic of the art school, has argued that 21st-century building and fire regulations would inevitably compromise Mackintosh’s original designs and as such, faithfulness is not possible.

He called for a new building to take the place of the Mack.

The most famous of Glasgow School of Art’s buildings was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in phases between 1896 and 1909. 

The influential Scottish architect was commissioned by the school’s director, Francis Newbery, who oversaw a period of expansion and fast-growing reputation.