On June 15, 2018, the world-renowned Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Mackintosh Building at the art school was extensively damaged by a blaze while it was undergoing a £35 million restoration following a previous fire in May 2014.

More than 150 firefighters were deployed at the scene as flames took hold of the building, with crews resorting to pumping water from the River Clyde to help dampen the flames. 

So severe was the damage to what was one of the jewels of Scotland’s architectural heritage that a Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation was unable to establish how the fire started and recorded the origin and cause as "undetermined".

News of the fire was also reported by media outlets across the world, with The New York Times took calling ‘the Mack’ a “gem of world architecture” in a feature detailing the sense of loss felt by Scottish artists.

Now, as the fifth anniversary of the devastating blaze approaches, one of Scotland’s top architects and a Glasgow School of Art alumnus has unveiled a triptych of the fire to mark the occasion. 

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Professor Alan Dunlop said he hopes the three paintings - watercolours on tinted paper - will serve as a reminder of just how “ferocious” the 2018 fire was and how much of a loss it was for Scotland when the iconic building was ravaged by flames for the second time in four years.

He told The Herald: “I’ve been involved in discussions and debate and analysis about what is happening with the Art School since the first fire in 2014 and then the more devastating fire in 2018. It’s now coming up to five years since that fire. It’s not really an anniversary to celebrate at all. It’s actually quite horrible. 

“If you go and visit it it’s still surrounded by scaffolding and there’s nothing much that seems to be happening. They had a procurement process to select an architect which was badly handled and consequently was scuppered so not only are we not any further forward in getting this building reinstated. We seem to have taken a step backwards. 

The Herald: Professor Alan DunlopProfessor Alan Dunlop

“So I thought, ‘How can I make this five year anniversary memorable?’ And do something different from the photographs that have been produced in the various news pieces on the fire. 

“One of the most incredible things about the 2018 fire was that it was an inferno. It wasn’t just a small house fire, it was an inferno that could be seen from all over Glasgow. It had reverberations all over the world.

So I thought that maybe I could do some paintings just to remind people just how ferocious the whole thing actually was. That was the stimulus for it. 

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“I just want to remind everybody through these images how significant this building is and what a loss it is not only for Scotland but people all over the world. And the best way to do that is not by doing another written piece but do three images that people have never seen before. 

“With the three paintings, I just want to jog everybody’s memory and remind everybody that this is five years and this is Scotland’s most important contemporary structure. I would even go as far as to say it’s Scotland’s most important structure by its best architect and it is still lying in a state of disrepair surrounded by scaffolding. I think that’s actually pretty tragic that that should be the case. Something really needs to be done and something needs to be sorted out.”

Rather than one painting, Prof Dunlop, who has called for a new building to “meet the needs of a contemporary art school” and take the place of the Mack, said he was motivated to produce a triptych to show the 2018 fire from three different vantage points.

The Herald: The 2018 fire at The Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh buildingThe 2018 fire at The Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building

He added: “I wanted to do three paintings. I wanted to do a painting showing a view not necessarily from the outskirts of Glasgow but from well away from it to show that this was a kind of marker for what was actually going on. As a matter of fact when the building caught fire you could see it from Castlemilk. You could see it from the periphery of the city. As I said it was an inferno.

“Then the second painting is a much closer view from the bottom of Renfrew Street where people started to gather and you could see the blaze itself and how it was affecting the buildings all around it. 

“And then the final one is a real close-up to show the devastation being caused to the roof. That’s the reason why there are the three paintings. There was the outside, a wee bit closer and something that’s right in the middle of the inferno. That was the kind of strategy behind it.”