As I See It
Sentiment clouding Glasgow’s big decisions
Rebuilding the Mackintosh school of art in Glasgow is a brave ambition expressed with determination this weekend by its chairman Muriel Gray. Such a declaration has echoes of that other big vote last week to revitalise the home of Scottish football.
Hampden Park, of course, remains a working facility, but like the art school it was facing the prospect of being reduced to rubble.
As with Ms Gray’s hopes of reviving Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s gem, retaining Hampden as the national football stadium was based on a large dose of sentiment and a reluctance to lose a part of the city’s past.
Emotional ties may help to bind communities and their value should not be understated, but emotion and business logic are not always comfortable bedfellows. Ms Gray says that talk of rebuilding the art school costing £100m is just guesswork but adds that, whatever the final bill, it should not impact on the taxpayer.
So the money will be raised privately. She hopes. It may also take 10 years. Mmmm… this sounds like hope triumphing over expectation. Ms Gray says money remains from the original fund-raising that followed the fire in 2014. But, as we know from past experience, the costs around such demanding projects have a habit of rising. Where’s the insurance cover in all this?
While the School of Art and Hampden are steeped in the city’s soul, the events surrounding both should have been a timely signal to move on and seize opportunities that both present.
The Scottish Football Association’s decision to remain at Hampden caused some head shaking among those who saw it as an opportunity lost to move to the bigger, more modern – and cost effective – Murrayfield. Based purely on a business decision, switching to Edinburgh was a no-brainer. However, history and the nonsense talked about ‘legends’, got the better of the board who have yet to explain how they intend to make Hampden truly fit for purpose and how they will raise funds that would not have been required had they accepted the SRU’s invitation.
If the School of Art is to be rebuilt there is surely a case for creating a 21st century vision that embraces elements of Mackintosh’s original in a bigger facility that might also include the neighbouring nightclub that was also gutted.
The GSoA was never well located, hidden from the city on Garnethill, its back turned to Sauchiehall Street. This formerly grand thoroughfare, now in danger of becoming a shabby ghost of its own past, would benefit from repositioning a new building facing the street so that its recreated facade could be properly viewed. Significantly, it offers an opportunity to inject new life into a corner of the city which is suffering the downturn in retail and faces competition from new commercial projects on the Clyde.
If investors and maybe the taxpayer are to be willing backers, then a new and more widely inclusive complex could emerge to include studios, business and craft workshops, an arena for live performance and exhibitions. This would be a much more ambitious and commercially sound prospect than simply trying to recreate the past in a building that would continue to have limited use.
Much has been made of Ruth Davidson telling a Sunday paper she didn’t want to become Prime Minister. She’s said it at least twice before at events attended by Daily Business. Catch up here…