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AJ exclusive: Which architect ‘won’ scrapped Mack contest?

View on to the central corridor of The Mackintosh Building showing material which needed to be removed from 2018 (left). 
The same view in November 2022 (right) Source: McAteer

The Architects’ Journal can reveal the architects that scored highest in the bungled search for a team to lead the Glasgow School of Art’s £62 million restoration of its fire-gutted Mackintosh building.

It is understood a bid led by John McAslan + Partners was originally top scorer in the contest to oversee the rebuilding of the 113-year-old school, which burned down five years ago.

But after the bids were recalculated, Hawkins\Brown is understood to have been awarded the highest score. The entire procurement was scrapped shortly afterwards.

The exact marks awarded to each team remain unknown. Documents released through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by the AJ are heavily redacted to conceal both the calculations and the finalists’ names.

It reads: ‘This has resulted in the wrong outcome being announced to bidders.’

The GSA then contacted all the shortlisted practices to clarify that it had withdrawn its initial notification letter, which said John McAslan + Partners had topped the scoring. Its message reads: ‘[Errors identified within the scoring matrix have] resulted in inaccurate outturn positions on both the technical and price evaluation.’

The school asked an external auditor to undertake an independent review of the tender evaluation process.

It was revealed that ‘the original scoring matrix failed to calculate the final quality score in proportion to the 100 per cent awarded to the highest achieved quality score’ while the initial price scoring had, in error, been ‘arrived at by expressing the lowest bid as a proportion of [the teams’] tendered price’.

On recalculating the bids, a different team received the highest score. The AJ understands this was Hawkins\Brown.

However, during the new standstill period – prompted by the fresh award letter – the school received a pre-action letter from one of the other bidders challenging the outcome.

As a result, the GSA decided to close the procurement process and confirmed to the teams that no award had been made.

In documents also released under FOI, the GSA said it wanted to bring on board an external procurement consultant to advise on the new process and to support them ‘practically and procedurally in delivering a demonstrably open, fair and compliant process’.

Speaking after the year-long procurement process was abandoned in March, RIAS chief executive Tamsie Thomson, said: ‘Ask any of our members and they will tell you that design procurement in Scotland is broken, and the latest sad twist in the ongoing saga of the Mackintosh Building Project is symptomatic of a system that is in deep trouble.

‘Whether it’s projects falling apart because of technical errors or a lack of weight being given to design quality within the wider procurement system, it’s clear that things need to change.’

The procurement process was launched in March last year, setting out to select a team to deliver a ‘faithful reinstatement’ of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed 1909 architectural masterpiece’.

The landmark Charles Rennie Mackintosh building was gutted on 15 June 2018 while undergoing a £35 million restoration programme following an earlier fire in 2014.

After a ‘complex and resource-intensive investigation’, which took the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service more than three and a half years to complete, firefighters admitted they still didn’t know how the fire started.

In October 2021, the Glasgow School of Art ruled out constructing a new building to replace the fire-ravaged structure and instead opted for a ‘faithful reinstatement’ of the architectural masterpiece.

John McAslan + Partners and Hawkins\Brown were contacted for comment.