Art School management facing MSP scrutiny concerning fire-safety

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Credit: Geograph / Thomas Nugent

Bronagh McGeary
Deputy News Editor

Following the 2014 blaze that destroyed the iconic Mackintosh library and a large portion of the Mackintosh Building, the nearly completed renovation suffered yet another fire in June of this year. The management team at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) will be asked to provide evidence to MSPs after the culture committee at Holyrood was notified of the management’s failure to keep up with fire risks. The MSPs have heard that the main Art School premises, the Mackintosh building, was, in fact, a fire hazard.

In light of the second blaze, the failure to conduct a thorough investigation into fire safety after the 2014 incident is now being referred to as a systemic failure on the part of the GSA management. Joan McAlpine, the committee convenor, stated that the failures in managing risk were indeed systematic, and hopes that the evidence provided by the GSA will “bring greater transparency and clarity to this issue”.

SNP MSP Sandra White argued that the current GSA board are “not fit for purpose” and that no lessons had been learnt after the first devastating fire, which was a result of old air vents that acted as chimneys to spread the blaze. Mackintosh expert Roger Billcliffe said that the building had been a “fire-trap waiting to happen”, and that the building was not equipped with the appropriate fire hazards required in the 21st century.

It appears that even staff may have been aware of potential hazards, as Eileen Reed, former GSA employee, said that everyone that worked in the building knew it was a fire risk. Eileen stated: “We used to talk about how many minutes we would have to get out”.

With the GSA board under fire, the question as to whether they are able to continue managing the historical site and the future of the Mackintosh building is yet to be decided.