LONDON (AP) – Glasgow has suffered a major blow as a second severe fire in four years has gutted the historic Glasgow School of Art, one of the Scottish city’s most beloved cultural treasures.
Fire officials said Saturday the fire was mostly under control and that there seemed to be no casualties, but said that every floor of the historic building at the heart of the city center was damaged.
The cause of the fire has not been established. It came near the end of a multimillion pound (dollar) project to restore the building to its former glory after a 2014 fire.
Now the rebuilding project will have to start again – if the structure is still sound enough.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the government is ready to provide “any support that may be required” in the aftermath of the blaze.
“This is a very sad morning in the city of Glasgow,” she said. “Glasgow School of Art is an institution that is loved not just by its students, staff and the people of this city, but by many around the world.”
The arts school building, known as the Mackintosh Building, was designed by celebrated Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built between 1897 and 1909.
It was regarded as his masterpiece, and officials had spared no expense in the restoration that began after the 2014 fire.
Sam Patterson, vice president of the Glasgow Institute of Architects, said the spread of the fire throughout the entire building would make any restoration effort extremely difficult.
“It’s difficult really to say much until there’s an evaluation or report on the building. But certainly the spread of the fire is far greater than previous years and from what I can see walking around this morning it’s going to be a far more challenging project to redo,” he said.
Officials said the fire spread extremely quickly after it broke out at about 11:20 p.m. Friday.
Stuart Robertson, director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, said the 2014 fire was contained before damaging the east wing of the building but that this blaze had damaged its entire structure.
“”To see some of the work and the beautiful craftsmanship that’s gone on and I’d seen a glimpse of the new library taking shape and the studio work and all the painstaking work that’s gone into the restoration is just…people must feel sick,” he said.
The landmark building had been due to reopen next year.
Former student Peter Swanton told Britain’s Press Association how much he and other students appreciated the building’s design and workmanship.
“(It’s) an absolutely tragic night for Glasgow, Scotland, art, architecture and culture as a whole,” he said.