Glasgow School of Art hits back at criticisms over its management of historic building

Written by Jenni Davidson on 13 November 2018 in News

In its inquiry into the fires at Glasgow School of Art, Holyrood’s culture committee has heard suggestions that the GSA is not fit to manage the building

Glasgow School of Art detail - Image credit: Le Kizz via Flickr

Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has hit back at criticism suggesting that it is not fit to manage the historic building after two major fires in four years destroyed much of the structure.

Ahead of giving evidence to Holyrood’s culture committee on Thursday 15 November, art school bosses have defended their management of the Rennie Mackintosh-designed building.

The art school has defended its corporate governance, saying that suggestions that its board and management structure were not fit for purpose were based on “personal opinion and speculation” and that no link could be made between its management and the fires since the cause of the second fire was “not yet known”.

The submission to the committee also defends the art school’s decisions around fire safety both before and after the first fire in 2014.

It says the Mackintosh building site was in the hands of the contractors, Keir Construction, who were working on the restoration and GSA was “obliged to give possession of the site to the contractor” according to the contract.

The report said: “Since the 2014 fire, the Mackintosh Building has not yet been handed over to GSA and resided with the contractor.

“We are in the process of terminating the contract with Keir (Construction) Scotland Limited and the site has transferred from Keir (Construction) Scotland Limited to Reigart Contracts Limited.

"It is still not in the operational control of the GSA and therefore we have not yet had the opportunity to implement the outcome of our review work on operational activities within the Mackintosh Building.

“We have however implemented our new revised procedures in the rest of the Estate. We therefore rebut the claim that we have failed to learn any lessons after the 2014 fire.”

At its meeting on Thursday, the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee will hear from chair of the GSA board of governors Muriel Gray, deputy director for innovation Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam and senior project manager for the Mackintosh Building restoration Liz Davidson.

Ahead of the meeting, committee convener Joan McAlpine MSP said: “The role of this committee is not to establish the cause of the fire, but to explore whether poor decision making or flawed processes contributed to the loss of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

“We have already gathered evidence from former employees, independent experts and local community leaders who have been critical of the art school management.

“We had an evidence session with the school’s architects and main contractor, which raised further questions about fire prevention and containment.

“This Thursday we will put all these points to Glasgow School of Art management and board and will consider their response carefully.”

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