A trust should be appointed to help oversee the rebuilding of the art school

One of Scotland’s top architects and Glasgow School of Art alumnus believes a trust should be formed to push the rebuilding project forward.

Professor Alan Dunlop has backed fellow architect Paul Stallan’s concerns that a flawed tendering system could see rebuilding the fire-ravaged institution could come down to price rather than quality.

In yesterday’s Herald we revealed how Mr Stallan, co-founder of Stallan Brand, said that a strict formula that favors price over quality will not only exclude skilled architects bidding on the call for rebuilding bids, including his own firm, but claims the team of architects who bid the cheapest price to undertake the work at the art school may have a low to medium quality score and win the contract .

Read more: Glasgow School of Art Mac rebuild ‘could be down in price’

Professor Dunlop said that in this procurement process there is a risk that the lowest cost will determine appointments, not the best architect and team for the project.

He said Faithful Reintegration should be like Berlin’s Neues Museum in its approach, but should remain a working art school, not a museum. The renovation of the Neues Museum followed the principle of conservation rather than reconstruction.

Firefighters ease off after the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) fire at the historic Mackintosh building in Glasgow in 2018.

He added: “We must keep what we can of the original building, protect it and build with the utmost sensitivity inside, a project that meets the current needs of the art school; fully respects Mackintosh heritage but meets contemporary building standards. A Mackintosh Building Trust should be made up of experienced practitioners and experts who know what they are doing, independent of the board, to undertake the project.

In 2018, a fire caused catastrophic damage to the prized Mackintosh Building as it neared the end of a £35million restoration project following a previous fire in May 2014.

Prof Dunlop described the rebuild as ‘the most significant project in Scotland since the parliament building’.

He added: “Thus, like the parliament, the process of selecting an architect for the reintegration of the faithful should have been the appointment of assessors; invitations to submit, selection from a long list of 12, followed by presentations.

Professor Alan Dunlop believes a trust should be established for the rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art

Professor Alan Dunlop believes a trust should be established for the rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art

Professor Dunlop said he should also have included a shortlist of five people with their assessment of the brief; development of the approach, ideas, confirmation of the team presentation of proposals.

He also recommended a public display, inviting comments and final presentation to reviewers and selection of architect and team.

Professor Dunlop added that at this stage the fees should be submitted separately by each shortlisted firm and kept confidential.

“Once the team of architects is selected on the quality of its presentation and its proposals, its fees are then open,” he added. “If it is considered to be less than a percentage of the costs judged for the project, then the nomination is confirmed.”

“In terms of technical upgrades to fight the fire, the elements that made Mackintosh’s masterpiece, the grand staircase from the ground to the first floor gallery, the open access stairs and double vacuums at each end would make this very difficult to achieve without compromising.”

Damage caused after fire at Glasgow School of Art

Damage caused after fire at Glasgow School of Art

Mr Stallan, best known for designing the 2014 Commonwealth Games village and his work on the Falkirk Wheel and the Scottish Parliament, said with such emotion for the building that the reconstruction had to be correct.

“For something as important as the rebuilding of the Glasgow School of Art, with the procurement process, you’d think you’d want to dig a little deeper to see what the formula delivers.” added.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) said it supports a procurement process that balances costs while achieving the best possible design results.

A spokesman for RIAS said: “This is a building of vital importance to the City of Glasgow, and we would like to see a process that helps the best architects compete to produce a building of a quality exceptional.”

Eleanor Magennis, GSA’s director of estates, said she had worked hard to ensure the procurement process was robust and transparent.

She added: “At the heart of our approach is a two-stage bidding process with the first stage, which is currently open, based solely on the quality of past experience. The second stage is based on both quality and cost. A Scottish Government spokesperson said it was still open to discussing how to restore and renovate Scottish buildings with the RIAS.

Kayleen C. Rice