Debate Around How to Approach the Restoration of the Devastated Charles Rennie Mackintosh Library
Phil Miller reports for The Scottish Herald:
Build a new library at Mackintosh Building, not a replica, says leading architect. The world famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh library which was destroyed in the fire at the Glasgow School Of Art should not be rebuilt as a "replica" copy, a leading Scottish architect has declared. Alan Dunlop believes that the school should instead open up an international competition to find an innovative modern architect who can build a new library. A new facility, he believes, can be built in the space where the former Mackintosh Library stood in the west wing of the building.
Professor Dunlop believes that Mackintosh himself would not have wanted to simply replicate what had gone before. Mackintosh, he says, was an architect who developed and advanced his designs, rather than repeated what he had already done.
The Mackintosh Library (before the fire).
The library, and most of its contents, was destroyed in the May fire, and its remnants are currently being explored and analysed by forensic archaeologists as the school begins the long and expensive process of revitalising the building. Professor Dunlop, who with Gordon Murray designed the copper-clad Radisson Hotel on Glasgow's Argyle Street, and the steel-clad Spectrum Building in the city's Blythswood Street, said he is "seriously against the idea of remaking the Mackintosh library." The architect, who trained at the GSA, said: "There is a debate going on about what should be done and I am worried at the moment - I think rebuilding it would just be just a replica of Mackintosh, and I am sure you could do it, but the best thing would to have a new idea, something new which is worthy of the Mackintosh Building. "There is actually no way you can replace it as it was, there was 100 years of age and patina that you would have to replicate. "I don't think it would be what Mackintosh would do - just look at the expansion of his work in the years between each part of the Mackintosh Building being built [in 1899 and 1909]." Earlier this year, David Mullane, a former director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, who chairs the Friends Of The GSA organisation, said he believed a rebuilt version of library could be an "embarrassment" and a prime example of "Mockintosh". Professor Dunlop, who does not himself want to design a new library, said that the former library had essentially become a museum, not a viable working room for students and staff. He said he was worried the debate was leaning towards replicating the Mackintosh Library as it once was. "I know people will be naturally wary of this, but if we get the right architect it can be done thoughtfully," he added. "But I do think it is time to really debate the question of what will be done with the space." A spokeswoman for the GSA said: "We warmly welcome input into the debate around the future of the Mackintosh Library and will be listening to a wide range of views before making a final decision on the way forward." Professor Dunlop is an academic and teacher as well as an architect, and he has taught in the USA, UK, Germany and also lectured internationally. In his practice, he has won over 50 national and international awards.