“Many students and staff watched in tears Friday as flames tore through the sandstone Art Nouveau building, designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and completed in 1909.”

This was the description from  The Washington Examiner on May 24, 2014, the day after fire engulfed the iconic Grade-A listed Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art.

The shock of seeing flames rage and plumes of smoke rise high above Mackintosh’s masterpiece of design - one of the UK’s most revered buildings - brought with it a sadness and sudden sense of loss which extended far beyond the Garnethill area of Glasgow.

News outlets across the globe were quick to report the blaze at the beloved institution, which began when flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam came into contact with the hot surface of a projector while the annual degree show installation was taking place. 


“Destruction of an emblematic work of 'art nouveau'”, Catalan daily El Periódico led with in its report of the 2014 fire, which destroyed “an icon of European architecture in Glasgow”.

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art Fires: Find all the articles in the series here

The newspaper said: “Pedestrians cried when they saw the fire in the Mackintosh building. The most important work of the Scot Charles Rennie Mackintosh, more art than architecture for the majority of his compatriots, headquarters of the renowned Glasgow School of Art and jewel of the European 20th century, suffered a fire yesterday triggered by the explosion of a projector in the basement, as the students explained, which later extended through the west wing and consumed part of the library. Firefighters were fighting last night to control the flames and save the works of art inside.”


While Argentine daily Clarín - the second most circulated newspaper in the Spanish-speaking world - led simply with “Glasgow School of Art hit by fire. Charles Rennie Mackintosh's iconic building was consumed by flames”.

In its report on the blaze, the newspaper wrote that “the building was built between 1897 and 1899 and is a reference for the British variant of Art Nouveau. The work shows a progressive reduction of linear geometry: Mackintosh's taste for planes, volumes and geometric structure prevails. It could be said that the interior architectural space, and the objects it contains, belong to the domain of line, of colour, while the external appearance enters the field of volumetric rigour. Everything was developed with a perfect synthesis of organicity and abstraction.”


The sense of numbness and loss following the fire was felt across France, where Mackintosh spent the last four years of his life as a painter in Port Vendres on the Mediterranean coast.

In its report a day after the 2014 fire, Le Monde labelled the Mackintosh building both “a masterpiece of the 20th century” and “one of the most emblematic buildings of the emerging 20th century".

The Herald: Firefighters tackling the blaze at Glasgow School of Art in 2014Firefighters tackling the blaze at Glasgow School of Art in 2014 (Image: Herald & Times)

“Built in two phases between 1897 and 1909 by Scottish architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the building, considered the masterpiece of its creator - and named after him - freely combines a number of borrowings and, above all, for the first time incorporates a strong "art nouveau" component into its architecture”, Le Monde wrote about the Glasgow institution it described as “one of the city's historic monuments”.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Herald called the Mackintosh building “treasured” and “one of the world's top art schools”, before noting that the school’s alumni “include recent Turner Prize for art winners Simon Starling (2005), Richard Wright (2009) and Martin Boyce (2011)” as well as “Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi, Harry Potter and James Bond movie actor Robbie Coltrane, and members of Scottish rock bands Travis and Franz Ferdinand”. 

“All students and staff were safely evacuated from the Glasgow School of Art, officials said, after smoke and flames billowed from one of Scotland's most cherished buildings”, the paper added.


In October 2014, Swiss French-language daily Le Temps interviewed American architect Steven Holl about the Reid Building, his contemporary addition to the Glasgow School of Art's campus, which was completed just two months prior to the 2014 fire and aimed at forging ‘a symbiotic relation’ with the Mackintosh building which faced it across the width of Renfrew Street.

Mr Holl, who shared how he had felt “very inspired by the life that inhabited the school and Mackintosh's use of light” on his maiden visit to the Mackintosh building in 2009, shared his “real shock” at seeing images of the institution being engulfed by flames.

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Art Fires: What was lost or suffered damage?

He said: “This made me extremely sad. The loss is colossal, due to the passion that such a work arouses. This building was and remains fundamental in the history of architecture. It represents, as I have said, a unique break in architectural language due to its modernism, and a spectacular study on light. Even more important, it is a vibrant place, inspiring students for over a hundred years.”

Mr Holl then joined calls for the Mackintosh building to be faithfully restored, regardless of the costs involved to do so, adding: “The energy that emerges from GSA is very fruitful. This is why it must be completely restored. It must remain an art school. Churchill's famous words – “First we build buildings, then they shape us” – illustrates this perfectly, precisely because the Glasgow School of Art has produced artists every year since 1909. We must all get involved in the repair . We must waste as little time as possible to be able to train students there again in 2016.

“The Glasgow School of Art is part of a heritage that lies beyond the value of things. It is impossible to estimate the price, because it does not only have a monetary value. Its value is internal and its function goes well beyond cash.”

Four years on, the Mackintosh building was extensively damaged when a fire broke out late on June 15, 2018 as it neared the end of a £35 million restoration project following the previous fire.

Once more, the impact of the 2018 fire reverberated far beyond Mackintosh’s native Glasgow - the only city in the world where you can view a concentration of his renowned work.

The Herald: Exterior view of Glasgow School of Art following the 2018 fire (PA)Exterior view of Glasgow School of Art following the 2018 fire (PA)


“No victims reported after fire in Glasgow art school building”, informed Havana-based news site Cuba Debate in its report on how the fire caused “serious damage” to the historic building.


In Italy, Turin’s La Stampa reported how “the most famous art school in the world” had been devastated by fire, with Rome’s La Repubblica noting that “more than 120 firefighters were busy putting out the fire” as images broadcast by local TV networks showed “flames enveloping the building and a huge cloud of smoke rising into the sky”. 


In France, Le Parisien called the Mackintosh building “prestigious” while reminding readers that “the most emblematic building in Glasgow was already engulfed in flames four years ago”. This was echoed by Le Monde in their report on the blaze, which featured the headline “Glasgow art school ravaged by fire again”. “It is home to the Glasgow School of Art, one of the oldest British institutions dedicated to art and design, founded in 1845, and which has trained major contemporary artists. The school was visited by 20,000 people each year”, the newspaper added. 


Reporting a day after the blaze, Mexico City-based daily Excélsior said that “only ‘some isolated flames’ remain from a fire that broke out yesterday at 11:30pm local time and that devoured the emblematic building of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the second time in four years.”

Excélsior also went as far as to suggest that the “iconic” Mackintosh building, having succumbed to another fire, was “cursed” and noted that “the building had been saved from a fire in 2014, but this time the damage is total”, before describing the building as “an Art Nouveau construction that took 12 years to complete and, after opening its doors in 1909, marked the birth of a new style in 19th century European architecture”. 

In its report, Vanguardia, based in the city of Saltillo around 430 miles north of Mexico City, referred to Charles Rennie Mackintosh as an important Modernist and described his building as a lure for thousands of tourists.


TV Globo São Paulo, a Brazilian TV station based in São Paulo, called Mackintosh one of the planet’s most important Art Nouveau architects. It said: “A fire has destroyed the prestigious Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, a historic building considered to be Mackintosh’s masterpiece”. 


Meanwhile, The New York Times called the Mack a “gem of world architecture” in a feature detailing the sense of loss felt by Scottish artists. “It is clear that the fire’s impact on Glasgow’s cultural scene will take years to play out,” the paper said. 

It quoted former student Nathan Coley as saying: “Glasgow has this image of being successful and culturally dynamic, but it’s very fragile.” Glasgow, he said, had “just lost its beating heart”.