Glasgow School of Art blaze 'truly devastating', says former pupil and Stand owner Stuart Gilmour

Firefighters are battling to control a blaze at Glasgow’s world famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Glasgow School of Art.

Images across social media show the historic building being devastated by flames and smoke filling the surrounding areas. Firefighters were called at around 12.30pm, and it’s understood the blaze started in the basement.

Stuart Gilmour, owner of Glasgow communications agency Stand, attended Glasgow School of Art between 1980 and 1984, and he told The Drum the news is “devastating”.

“I genuinely feel quite sick about it,” he said. “I’ve been on Facebook over the last few minutes with lots of ex-students who all feel the same. We’re all quite shaken by it, there’s a whole mix of emotions coming on.

“If it is what it looks like - and it looks absolutely major - it’s a real blow for the city, but I think it’s more than just that. It makes you realise there is a real emotional connection to it.”

The school was founded in 1845, although the Rennie Mackintosh-designed building came in the late 1800s and was fully completed by 1909. While the building continued to be functional until the present day, another £30m Reid building was opened in April. The building, designed by Steven Holl Architects and JM Architects has just been named AJ100 Building of the Year 2014.

It has produced highly respected artists, and since 2005 30 per cent of Turner Prize nominees have attended the school and it has produced three recent Turner Prize winners. The building is architecturally significant and the school receives more than 20,000 visitors a year.

“I just can’t believe the timing,” Gilmour said. “What with finally getting a new building up and running, there’s a real sense of positivity around the school at the moment in lots of ways, and then something like this happens. It’s horrendous on lots of levels.”

Gilmour added that images on social media appeared to show flames in the side of the building that hosts the school’s library and archives.

“It’s truly devastating,” he said. “It’s having a genuine effect on people. The fabric of the building has an irreplaceable value.”