Looking at the news just makes it worse. The machinations over devolution and Brexit this week have made me want to howl with rage. More than once I’ve wanted to draw my pen from its quiver and write out my anger to those who have prompted it. Yesterday when I saw flames engulf the Glasgow School of Art again, the rage turned to sadness. Thoughts turned to those affected, residents, students, staff and the workers who sought to rebuild the Mackintosh Building in the last years, as well as all those who have enjoyed the 02 ABC. Thankfully there don’t seem to have been any fatalities or injuries as a result of the fire which spread to neighbouring buildings on Sauchiehall Street, another place blighted in recent months. The emergency services have done a magnificent job as ever in ensuring everyone’s safety in containing the fire in the last hours.
The Mackintosh building was a place I made a point of seeing every time I visited Glasgow. I was in the early throes of an interest in psychogeography as well as a burgeoning advance in my love of architecture. I had postcards of the Mack in my room, the finials and touches atop and around the building, and tried to get to every exhibition held there. I liked that the building was beautiful but functional, a working place rather than a mere museum piece.
The first fire happened in 2014 and the city of Glasgow and Scotland felt much the same sick horror as right now. I remember going to work the next day and the fire was all we could talk about. It was very sad then though the talk was of rebuilding and renewal. Many treasures were lost forever, other replaced and drawn anew. It was nearly done. Then this.
I was last up that way just over a week ago. I had just finished an exam and rather than get a bus straight home I walked into town. I chose to cross the overpass onto Renfrew Street, a street I liked and hoped to write about soon. I passed ghost signs, art pieces and snatches of city skyline before coming up to the GSA itself. I looked at the ongoing work on the Mackintosh building and thought about how soon it would be back to rights. Indeed it was looking good from the outside. It was a pleasant night and folk were milling around the Reid building where the degree show was in progress. I declined as my brain was melted and walked on. I wish I had stayed, in hindsight.
Looking at the news really does make it worse. Already this year there have been a few big fires in Glasgow, not least the big one that still sees Sauchiehall Street closed off. Now this. Our city’s motto is Let Glasgow Flourish. It is sometimes hard to feel affection for cities amidst the hustle and bustle. There is real love, though, for Glasgow and its finest buildings, whatever your definition of finest. It is a sad day for Glasgow but there will be better ones ahead, sunnier days when the Glasgow School of Art will be back intact and ready to teach and inspire the city and world beyond. As an UNESCO City of Music, hopefully all the shows booked to play the O2 ABC will still happen.
I contend that this city is the greatest in the world. Sometimes I say it in fun but it is never more true than on days like this. I believe it in my very being and hold it close. A great many others do too. There will be a School of Art here again. Whether it is quite in the same building, we can’t yet say. But art endures and Glasgow endures, flourishes in fact, today as always.