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Work to dismantle fire-ravaged Mackintosh building begins

11 July 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

Work has begun to dismantle dangerous sections of the Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Building brick by brick, after it was extensively damaged by fire last month.

The work, which started yesterday, will be done to a methodology developed by expert structural engineers, Glasgow-based David Narro Associates, and Coatbridge-based contractor Reigart.

It will involve manual dismantling of the masonry, which will be accessed by a combination of Mobile Elevated Working Platforms (MEWP) and crane hoists.

The main crane, which was brought up to Glasgow from Sheffield, is positioned in Sauchiehall Street at the junction with Dalhousie Street and Reigart hopes to position a second crane at the junction of Sauchiehall Street and Scott Street, as well as using three other cranes for the work.

The Glasgow School of Art said masonry and brickwork will need to be dismantled in a controlled manner, brick by brick, with heavier high level stonework removed and transferred via hoists which will then be lowered down to street level for sorting and storage off site.

The work is expected to take several weeks.

Dominic Echlin of David Narro Associates said: "The primary aim of the initial works is to make the building safe and structurally stable. It is important to understand that our agreed approach is the safest way to dismantle the dangerous elements of the building and, importantly, ensure there is no damage to nearby properties or risk to those working on site.”

“The contractor is starting today [10 July] to reduce the height of the high level walls on the south side of the building, carefully taking down damaged and unstable masonry. With the machinery brought to site the contractor can work on several ‘fronts’, so after a start today in the middle of the south façade, we will quickly move on to reducing height to the top parts of the south-east corner and east façade. Work will then follow on the west end and then parts of north façade. This sequence has been determined so we keep the building as stable as possible and the dismantling controlled throughout the process.”

Meanwhile, the Glasgow School of Art's director Tom Inns has told the Guardian that the Mackintosh building will be rebuilt. He said: "We’re going to rebuild the Mackintosh building. There’s been a huge amount of speculation about what should happen with the site and quite rightly so, but from our point of view and that of the city of Glasgow, it is critically important that the building comes back as the Mackintosh building.”

Inns said that assurances from Kier, which had been restoring the building after a 2014 fire, that an adequate fire safety strategy was in place had been "professionally checked" by the art school.

He added that it was impossible to know how much of the remaining structure would be reusable until work had been completed to dismantle the dangerously unstable sections of the building.

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