Sober-suited, grey-bearded gentlemen sit around a table in a wood panelled room. Those with a keen eye or a special interest will recognise the man to the far left of the painting; standing with architectural plans unfurled in his hand is Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The group, which includes Francis Henry Newbery, the then-director of the Glasgow School of Art, is pushing on with the important business of planning the Mackintosh building.

Painted by Newbery, The Building Committee was a gift to the art school in 1914 and hung in the East Wing, in the boardroom of the Mackintosh School.

Exactly 100 years later, it hung there as fire took hold of the same building depicted in the plans held by architect Rennie Mackintosh.

The Building Committee is a survivor of a 2014 fire that took hold of the Mackintosh but 90 other oil paintings - such as Joan Eardley's Catterline and life studies by Maurice Greiffenhagen - were not. The world famous Mackintosh library was lost, as were around 8000 rare books and journals.

The Herald: The Building Committee

The first call came in to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service at 12.27pm on May 23, 2014. The Glasgow School of Art's internationally renowned Mackintosh building had caught fire.

Cowcaddens fire station - so close as to be almost in sight of the Glasgow School of Art - was first to respond, followed quickly by crews from Yorkhill and Maryhill fire stations.

Firefighters travelling in six engines were on scene within four minutes but already smoke was to be seen coming from the roof of the building and from scorched windows.

Later, during the second devastating fire, crews will run hoses in straight lines from the River Clyde, along the streets of Glasgow city centre's helpful grid system.

These will bring the river's mix of fresh and salt water to douse the flames that have taken hold of the Mack again, a natural Glasgow landmark put to work in service of a manmade Glasgow landmark.

At this first fire, however, no such additional support was needed as crews began the immediate task of assessing and tackling the incident.

Inside the building, which had been completed in 1909, an unnamed student had been preparing their degree work in a student exhibition space.

The Herald: The Mackintosh Library

In Studio 19 in the north basement, a space made of chipboard and wooden studs, the student used high expansion foam panels attached to three walls, a fourth wall left bare to use as a projection space for images from a projector mounted on the opposite wall.

Gaps between the foam panels were being filled in by applying expanding foam from a canister. The canister worked using flammable gases as a propellant; the gases were drawn into the projector cooling fan, they passed around electrical components of the projector and ignited.

The foam on the walls would have caught fire swiftly, passing flames and hot gases to the ceiling level of Studio 19 before they spread horizontally, catching timber panelling and spreading into voids in the walls of the historic building.

Studio 31, on the ground floor and immediately above Studio 19, was the next to catch fire. Four voids that ran vertically into the walls of the second studio allowed the fire to spread unchecked to areas above and on the same level.

Before long, the fire had spread to Studio 32, racing through voids to the Mackintosh Library above, then upwards to the Library Storage Space and Studio 58. It was, for the fire, a feeding frenzy of timber furniture, timber panelling and books.

The flames spread also from Studio 31 to the first floor Studios above 43, 44 and 45 then went laterally from the Professors' Studios to Studio 57.

Its age and history meant the building's vents were lined with timber and sheet metal, allowing the fire to spread. A service void running from basement to roof level acted like a chimney, sending smoke, flames and hot gases upwards.

The Herald:

In gruesome timing, a fire suppression system was in the process of being installed and was in late stages of completion - but on the day of the fire it was not fully commissioned and was not fully operational.

Read the full series on the Glasgow School of Art Fires here

OUTSIDE, as the fire crews began to work, aghast students and staff, who had been evacuated from the Mack, as the building is affectionately known, gathered along a police cordon to watch the incident unfold.

Douglas Morland had heard about the fire on Facebook. A former student and a tutor at the school, he left his studio on the Clydeside to join the crowds watching the event unfold.

"I couldn't do anything other than head up there immediately," he said, "and make a beeline for it." Mr Morland describes a feeling of "rising panic" as he walked up towards the Mack.

"I certainly don't think that anyone could contemplate the notion that the building would be in real danger because it was such a firmament, a key part of Glasgow and of the city's experiences.

"And when I say 'our' I'm not just talking about people who studied at the art school or have a connection with it, but it's one of the the cornerstones of the city."

The artist and lecturer said he lost track of time, standing on Sauchiehall Street watching events unfold. It was, he said, like a horrible, slow motion experience seeing flames lick the walls of the building and smoke billow from the library windows.

He felt helpless but could not look away. Others were standing in stunned silence and there was very little talking from the gathered crowd.

The Herald:

Muriel Gray, a former student and the then-chairwoman of the school, had arrived and was crying as she, too, watched what was happening. Mr Morland recognised other faces - students he had studied with during his time at the school from 1993 to 1997 and then for his two-year post-grad; students he had tutored; and people from the Glasgow art scene.

He had studied painting and so had been in the Mack building every day. "We were all mute," he said, "with the sense of shock and horror.


A complete timeline of the Glasgow School of Art fires

Glasgow School of Art: 19 months of 'inertia' over return of The Mack

Glasgow School of Art's rise to the toast of the art world

Lachlan Goudie: ScotGov must intervene over School of Art fails

Glasgow School of Art: We 'appreciate' concern over future of Mack

Glasgow School of Art: Drone footage shows the Mack ‘under wraps’

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

In the 10 years since, he has found himself avoiding the area, taking longer routes away from Hill Street or through Garnethill to avoid seeing the remains of the building.

"I don't think," he added, "I have made my peace with what happened.

"I certainly don't think I've been as upset about the loss of something that wasn't a person or an animal.

"There really was something absolutely magical about it because there was a visionary aspect to Mackintosh's architecture and it was a perfect marriage of form and function.

"But it was also a lodestone - a symbol - of cultural aspiration sitting on top of that hill."

He said: "Every day that I studied in that building I felt there was a little bit of magic in the accumulated century of experiences and aspiration that passed through that place.

"It led to the sense of feeling like a compass point in Glasgow and suddenly one of the points of the compass had been removed and the needle was just spinning away."

Like other students and staff, Mr Morland remembers the feel of the building and the way its design played with light.

He added: "What I remember most strongly was the sense of moving through the corridors and into the studios and the explosion of bright white light that hit you when you went into the studios.

"I don't think I've ever experienced light as crisp as that; the enormous windows and scorching white studio spaces.

"One of my favourite parts of the building was these marvellous subdued toned stairwells that were almost mediaeval in feeling, all greens and grey, and so quiet and contemplative.

"Every time I went into the building it felt like I was on some kind of journey to discover something new and exciting."

Mr Morland's son was born not long before the fire and he is now 10. His father talks to him about the Mack and the fire.

"Maybe," he adds, "we'll see it again in some form or other." Firefighters were still working "flat out" to save the building when the then-First Minister, Alex Salmond was informed of what had happened.

Mr Salmond was in his constituency when the news came in but he had only recently visited the Glasgow School of Art, ironically to see the 3D digital scan technology of historic buildings in which the Art School then led the world and which was to prove highly effective in restoration work.

He said: "I had visited the Glasgow School of Art and was aware of the huge significance of the Mackintosh Building and Library.

"The news of the fire was relayed to me in my constituency and initial estimates of damage were provided the next day."

Praising the "professionalism and strategy" of the firefighters - who would work overnight at the scene - he said plans were made almost immediately to look at financial assistance for the GSA.

Mr Salmond added: "I asked officials to prepare an assessment of financial assistance and other support ready to be presented to Parliament the following Tuesday after approval at a Cabinet meeting in Rutherglen that same day.

"I announced the package which headlined on £5 million of matched funding and Fiona Hyslop made a full statement to the Parliament on the range of support to staff and students to minimise disruption to the work of the Art School.

"At this stage after the 2014 fire the feeling was one of great relief as there was every reason for confidence that the building could be fully restored to its former glory.

"It was made clear in May 2014 that the Government intended to stand behind the School of Art to secure that outcome."

THE fire had occurred just months after the opening of the Reid Building, on the north front of the Mackintosh Building and named for the then-director of the GSoA, Dame Seona Reid. Dame Seona was contacted for comment but declined to be interviewed by The Herald.

It replaced the Newbery Tower and Foulis Building, providing teaching and exhibition space for the art school.

Liz Davidson was to become integral to the restoration of the Mackintosh Library following the 2014 fire but, at the time of the blaze, she was working in building conservation and city design with Glasgow City Council.

She had worked on the street scape that linked the Mackintosh Building and the Reid Building together and had been at the School for meetings with Dame Seona.

"I remember," she said, "Going up to the opening of the Reid Building and thinking this is the high point of Glasgow's everything.

"There was this wonderful piece of amazing new design, in my view, by Stephen Hall of the Reid Building, as it became called, and then the Mack, which had also had money put into it to the Lottery during the same time.

"So the two buildings were speaking to each other and both buildings were looking so phenomenally amazing.

"It was just probably the best piece of architectural streetscape of design in Scotland between those two buildings, in my view.

"So it had just had that tiny moment, that tiny sweet spot of a moment in history after the re-opening. But that moment in time was so short."

Ms Davidson was at a bonfire birthday party when she heard of the Mack being on fire. People coming to the party had driven along the M8 and seen the smoke, which was visible for many miles around Glasgow.

"Have you heard?" guests were saying as they arrived. The mood would change following the second fire in 2018 but, she said, at the 2014 fire the response was entirely sympathy and empathy.

The following day, May 25, it would be confirmed that the Mackintosh Library had been entirely lost, a devastating blow to the School, despite 70% of the building being saved and no lives lost.

By June, a star-studded fundraising campaign would be underway supported by Brad Pitt, a Mackintosh admirer, and Peter Capaldi, a former student, with £20 million raised to restore the Mackintosh.

Estimates say the restoration of the library will cost between £20m and £35m. In early 2015, Ms Davidson is then brought in as Senior Project Director for the restoration.

It will take six months for the fire service investigation to reveal the cause of the blaze, the student project. This is called a "horrible accident" by GSoA director Tom Inns.

Unbeknown to everyone involved, just four years later events would take an appalling new turn. But as Ms Davidson began the oversight of the work to restore the building, hopes were high.

"I look back on that fire now and it was about 70% of the building, obviously the most important part of the building," Ms Davidson said. "It was Mackintosh's masterwork.

"But nobody died, we had the insurance and during the restoration process we found out interesting things about the building. The craftsmanship that was enabled because of that fire was a positive.

"We were bringing back the building to look as absolutely stunning as it had been.

"We all thought 'Well, you know, at the end of the day, nobody would have wanted it. But this is the best possible outcome.

"'This building is going to come back fit for another 100 years.'

"So, at that point, we were kind of riding high on the first restoration project."