“You can see glimpses of the old building,” says Eleanor Magennis, who is helping oversee the complex and costly project to restore Glasgow School of Art (GSA)’s world-renowned “Mack” building by 2030.

I am among the journalists who have been given access to the basement corridor of the towering building, beyond the scaffolding that was put in place soon after a second fire gutted Mackintosh’s masterpiece in 2018.

There are now only rectangles where the architect’s trademark windows peppered the exterior walls, and fragments of the famous steps leading up to the school, but the essence of the building is still there.


Ms Magennis, estates manager for GSA, says most people taken into the building are surprised that so much of the original brickwork and structure has endured, given the scale of the second fire.

She is resolute in her determination to drive the project forward, after years of investigation, recriminations and resignations. Muriel Gray quit as chairwoman of the school in 2021.

"We are where we are," says Ms Magennis, leading us into the building, where the faintest smell of smoke still lingers.

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art fire report: Leader shares her frustration at outcome 

The project has personal significance for the former architect, who has previously worked on Glasgow University’s new campus redevelopment and regeneration projects for the city council.

HeraldScotland: Glasgow School of Art

Both her parents are GSA alumni. Her mother, Margaret Kelso, studied textile design in the late 1940s and her late father, James McNay was specialised in drawing and painting in the late 1930s.

While Margaret is unable to see the building for herself, at the grand age of 98, she has been shown images of the cleared building by her daughter and “recognised the windows.”

READ MORE: First look inside Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building 

“My professional background is as an architect, so I grew up loving Mackintosh and his works but I also grew up going with them to the degree shows, as alumni,” said Ms Magennis.


“They talked so fondly about their experiences here and I used to love coming with them from early on.

“The highlight was always the Mackintosh building so I do have that personal motivation and I still have my mum alive to update her.”

She said work, by hand, to remove 5,000 tonnes of fire-ravaged building involved 12-hour shifts and was “painstaking and robustly done”. 

“We have just completed stabilisation, which is an ongoing process,” she said.

“The next phase of the project is to put a temporary roof up and then we move into the main works.

"Our plan is still to complete it by the end of the decade.”