Leading architect proposes to become president of Glasgow School of Art ‘Lost Respect’

ONE of Scotland’s foremost architects threw her hat in the ring to become president of the struggling Glasgow School of Art in an attempt to seek reform, claiming she had ‘lost respect’ in a strong attack against the way it has been run in recent years. .

School of Art alumnus Professor Alan Dunlop has supported students considering a legal challenge to the institution over its handling of the first coronavirus lockdown and the impact of the devastating second fire of 2018 on the famous Mackintosh building.

Last week, Muriel Gray announced that she would step down as president of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) after the two catastrophic fires that destroyed the famous Mackintosh building.

Professor Dunlop said the outgoing Muriel Gray’s position has become untenable.

Seven years ago, a fire destroyed the west wing of the building and a second fire in 2018 destroyed most of the Grade A listed structure, considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.

Gray, 63, whose term was set to officially end in October 2022, said she hoped her early departure would clear the way for both her successor on the board and for Penny Macbeth, the newly appointed chief executive. .

She said: “I want to take the machine gun fire, so they stop targeting the GSA.

“All the negativity I seem to attract might still be in place if I stayed.”

She said resigning did not mean she “carried the can” for the fires.

This is because Professor Dunlop, whose work includes the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow, helped fund a legal campaign in painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, fashion and product design. the workshops and galleries which, according to them, were “an essential part of our studies”.

So far £ 3,680 has been raised as part of a crowdfunding campaign which claimed that the art school’s decisions further exacerbated anxieties as students “were already facing financial stress and to a deterioration in their mental health due to the loss of their part-time job, lack of leave due to precarious employment contracts or high-risk environments as key workers ”.

The group added: “This follows an already troubled year for our cohort, impacted by poorly managed access to studios and workshops, UCU [University and College Union] strikes and closure of the student union. ”

Professor Dunlop, who attended Mackintosh School of Architecture between 1983 and 1986, said he would try to rebuild the School of Art’s battered reputation if he became president, saying staff and students pushed him to apply.

The architect behind the original plan to build a crossing between Scotland and Northern Ireland said he had been approached by students to stand up and had strong words on the how the school was run.

“Yes, I’m interested, very interested and I think I have all the practical and academic experience and vision to do the job and do it well (not that the previous president had a similar experience before be named president in 2013) “said Prof Dunlop, who said he had received hundreds of running letters, communications and emails.

“I don’t know if the idea of ​​a ‘critical friend’ as one of the students suggested or of someone who wants to reform the governance and functioning of the school would be accepted, and I am suspicious how GSA works, so maybe I’m wasting my time, but I’m giving it serious thought.

“A number of graduate students from GSA and also Mackintosh School emailed me as soon as it was announced and encouraged me to introduce myself, students have a vote.

“I have even received supportive emails from locals who live around the school, which were seriously damaged after the 2018 fire. Unfortunately, they don’t have a vote, otherwise I would apparently do it on foot.

Herald Scotland:

“The next few years will be critical for the art school, with the future of Mackintosh’s masterpiece to be confirmed and contracts to be sorted out and the eventual publication of the fire report.

“So I ask architects and other friends if they could support me, because I thought they would like to see a ’eminent’ alumnus but also an architect, teacher and artist as president. I have my own opinions on this. but I would work with whatever was agreed upon as the best way forward. ”

He believed change was necessary.

“They take criticism as a personal insult,” said Professor Dunlop, a member of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. “They live off their past reputation. They don’t communicate. Their PR and messaging is terrible. They treat their students like cash cows and they don’t listen to independent reports.

“They don’t treat their neighbors with respect. There is no leadership. The building burned down in 2018 after more than 150 years of occupation.

“Now they are facing lawsuits from students. They have lost respect for other schools. And they have dropped significantly in the rankings of universities.

“But I was given hope that things could get better and that I could make a difference.

“They need a chair that knows their way around a contract and can plan the future of a building which was the most important in Scotland and elected by the Royal Institute of British Architects as the most important in the Kingdom “United. I have this experience, and Continued.”

“Faced with everything I’m going to throw my hat in the ring, I just have to figure out how to do it. ”

A GSA spokesperson said: “We have always had the utmost respect for Professor Dunlop, which is why he is one of the people consulted as part of the Strategic Outline Business Case for the Mackintosh Building, a approach which was one of the recommendations of the Scottish Parliamentary Committee Report. We also offered to meet with Professor Dunlop to discuss the points he recently expressed, but he unfortunately declined our offer.

“Since June 2018, we have worked hard to rebuild our relationships with our neighbors, and with the appointment of our principal, Professor Penny Macbeth, in May 2020, the leadership and future direction of the school is evident, the GSA maintaining its leadership position. the top ten international art schools in the QS Global 2021 Academic Subject Rankings, an improved position in the Guardian 2022 ranking and a clear commitment to us to provide the best student experience.


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Kayleen C. Rice

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