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Restored Mackintosh Library at Glasgow School of Art to be based on 1910 design

The £51m restoration of the Mackintosh Building in Glasgow is to return to the ideas of its world-famous architect.

The design team behind the restoration of the Glasgow School of Arts (GSA) landmark building is to return its famed library – destroyed in the disastrous 2014 fire – to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s original design.

The new library will look, the team hope, as it did in 1910.

That will be a different look from the room that many will remember from before the fire – it will lack the accretions added over the years, including darker wood, the staircase to a mezzanine, and many extra bookcases.

The design team of the Restoration Project, led by Page/Park architects, have instead decided to build the new library from scratch and based on Mackintosh’s original plans, albeit with some “concessions to modernity”.

Furniture based on the original will be commissioned, and its lamps both restored and remade.

The library will be rebuilt largely in American tulipwood, as it was in 1909/10, with some Douglas Fir.

Sarah MacKinnon, project manager of the Mackintosh Restoration Project, said:

“The design team have looked at huge amounts of information from our archives, from the Hunterian, from all over the place. And with them, we have designed that Mackintosh’s influence on this room [the library] ended in about 1913. And if we are going to put it back, we should put it back to where he intended it to be, so are putting it back to its 1910 configuration. So there will be no staircase, the bookshelves will be in a 1910 style – it got more and more through time. It will be slightly sparser than it was.”

Ms MacKinnon spoke as she guided The Herald around the building, which is heading into its most important stage of restoration.

Contractors for the revamp will be chosen in June and will be onsite in July.

“Mackintosh didn’t build this library, he designed it, and we can to a huge extent understand the design from the records we have. We are putting a new library in here, it would be ludicrous if it looked old – it would be dishonest if it looked old.”

There will be more plug sockets, improved WiFi and underfloor heating.

This week its many classical and medieval plaster casts will begin a process of storage and restoration: of the 224 in the building, 4 were destroyed and 12 badly damaged, others were blackened by soot.