Glasgow School of Art: Repair bill may cost up to £35m

Glasgow School of Art fire The fire destroyed the library and much of the students' work

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The final cost of repairing Glasgow School of Art's fire-damaged Mackintosh building is likely to be between £20m and £35m, MSPs have been told.

The art school's director, Professor Tom Inns, told Holyrood's education and culture committee that the restoration would probably take up to four years.

He said the cost could be met by government, insurance and donations.

Meanwhile, a £750,000 fund will be made available to students to recreate works they lost in last month's fire.

The blaze broke out in the world-famous Mackintosh building on Friday 23 May.

Library destroyed

Students were putting the final touches to their end-of-year projects at the time.

The library was destroyed, but the Mackintosh Museum and the archives survived.

Firefighters managed to save about 90% of the iconic structure and about 70% of the contents. Many degree students, however, lost their work.

Members of the Scottish parliament's education and culture committee held a special one-off session on Tuesday to examine how the school, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh more than a century ago, will be restored.

Fire damage incise the Mackintosh building The building was badly damaged but most of its structure and contents were saved

Prof Inns told MSPs: "We have been in discussion with the insurance company and a team of people appointed to deal with the immediate securing of the building, and the estimates are probably somewhere between £20-£35m.

"In terms of the actual accident - or the incident - itself that is still under investigation by the police and the fire service so they still haven't reported back on that.

"We have a good sense of what actually happened but there's certain details of that which are still unknown, and we will have to reflect on what actually happened with that particular incident."

It will take 12 to 18 months to reopen the east wing of the building and 36 to 48 months to reopen the west wing, Mr Inns said.

'Complex case'

He is "reasonably confident" they will be able to fully fund the restoration, he added.

"I say reasonably confident because there are unknowns in that because we have an insurance policy on the building - the building is well insured," he said.

"The insurance will cover certain things, it won't cover other things. Obviously it's a very complex insurance case.

"We will have to raise funds so we will be setting up a fundraising campaign, so I think if all of these things come together we will be able to cover the cost of that restoration.

Start Quote

These are truly exceptional circumstances and no student should have their chance of potentially flourishing career affected by this awful incident”

End Quote Michael Russell MSP Education Secretary

"I am an optimistic person."

He added: "We originally marked the fund at £1m, but bear in mind we marked that up on the Saturday after the fire but that was before we sat down and actually worked it out.

"We're going to formally launch the fund on Wednesday and we're looking to raise probably between £10m-£20m depending on what we will actually be needing to be reasonably comfortable with the situation.

"We've had some very generous contributions from individuals, one or two pledges from trusts and organisations but it's a bit too early to say exactly what that is.

"But I think we can be reasonably confident that if we worked that well and effectively we would be able to raise the funding."

Prof Inns said the Scottish government had said it would match-fund up to £5m to support the restoration, but there had been no more detail from the UK government.

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said the UK government had said it was waiting for detail before it would make a contribution "in the millions if necessary".

Prof Inns said that the fire broke out as the deadline approached for students assessments.

'Mitigating circumstances'

"The assessment process I think was going to get frozen at 5pm that Friday afternoon and that was when all the work was going to be inside the degree show spaces and then the assessment teams would be going in on the Monday," he said.

Prof Inns said that all 102 students affected had since been assessed under "mitigating circumstances" and awarded their degrees.

The committee also heard that the Scottish government had contributed £750,000 towards the art school's Phoenix Bursary scheme to help students affected by the blaze to recreate lost work.

The bursaries, along with donations to the school, will help fund affected students' short-term living costs, academic supervision and the provision of studio space.

Earlier, Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "As well as doing very serious damage to one of Scotland's most iconic buildings, last month's fire put the future opportunities available to some of Scotland's most talented young artists in doubt.

"The Scottish government has pledged to help the school through this very difficult period and I am very pleased to offer financial aid for their final year students.

"These are truly exceptional circumstances and no student should have their chance of potentially flourishing career affected by this awful incident."

The education and culture committee heard evidence from Prof Inns, Sam De Santis, the president of Glasgow School of Art Student Association, along with Diana Murray, joint chief executive and Ranald MacInnes, head of heritage management from Historic Scotland, which will play a leading role in the salvage, storage and restoration of the building.

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