Return of the Mack: Restoring one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's architectural gems

Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT) February 25, 2015
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On the 23rd of May 2014, flames raged and plumes of smoke rose high above the Garnethill district of Glasgow, Scotland.

The quaint city-center neighborhood is home to a mix of plush new-build flats as well as century-old red brick tenement blocks. It's also the base of the internationally-renowned Glasgow School of Art.

Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, widely regarded as one of the leading figures of late 19th and early 20th Century design and architecture, it was in the art school the blaze originated. Fire tore through the building, destroying studios, student's work and the majestic library that bears Mackintosh's name.

Fire-fighters ensured that much of the school's structure was preserved, however the exquisite interiors and intricacies of the library's cherished decor were destroyed.
Last week, Getty Images photographer Jeff J. Mitchell was given access to the site which is currently being refurbished.

At the same time, a new exhibition celebrating Mackintosh's life's work and enduring influence opened at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London.
This Art School clock stopped at 15:46 on the day of May 24 as fire spread rapidly around it.

Much of the buildings contents, including furniture, fittings, watercolours and architectural drawings by Mackintosh were saved, although the damage sustained was still substantial.
Jeff J. Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images
Born in Glasgow in 1868, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was an architect, designer and artist at various stages of his busy life.
His signature Mackintosh Rose motif, which adorns much of his art and the art nouveau buildings he created in Scotland and beyond, has become a symbol of the inimitable style he created.
Courtesy RIBA/T&R Annan
A memorial plaque from 1901 of Sir James Fleming, former chairman of the Glasgow School of Art, which survived the fire at the Mackintosh Library.

Glasgow's position as a center of trade and its prominent position in the British Empire in the late 19th century exposed the city to many international cultures and influences.

One country which made a particular impact on the young Mackintosh was Japan. This interest in the East, described at the time by various observers as Japonisme, went on to inform much of his later work.
Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
Other areas of the School of Art were not so fortunate as the Sir James Fleming stonework of 1901.

This photo displays a view of the professors studios which were gutted by the fire.
Jeff J. Mitchell
A charred brick bearing the name of the suburb of Bishopbriggs in the Mackintosh Library at the Glasgow School of Art. Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images
Forensic archaeologists sift through the ashes of the Mackintosh Library at Glasgow's School of Art on November 18, 2014, in search of items that can be restored. The library, one of the world's finest examples of Art Nouveau, was severely damaged by a fire in May. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Mackintosh saw elaborate and iconic buildings like the Glasgow School of Art, captured here undergoing post-fire during stabilization work, built during his lifetime.

However, he also designed several other buildings, which were not completed while he was alive.
Jeff J. Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images
Some, like the House of an Art Lover, were built more than half a century after his death in 1928, a testament to his enduring and influential legacy.

This image, provided by the RIBA collection displays the interior design of the House of an Art Lover as Mackintosh imagined it. His signature rose motif is prominent throughout the design.
Courtesy RIBA
Another of Mackintosh's famous constructions.
The spiral stairs at the Lighthouse in central Glasgow, formerly known as the Glasgow Herald building and one-time base of the national Scottish newspaper of the same name

Mackintosh also designed a building for the Scottish tabloid, the Daily Record in the early 20th century.
Scotland Street School, opened in 1906, is one of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's most famous creations. Although it ceased operating as a school in the 1970s, it remains one of the Glasgow's most admired architectural attractions.

This sketch from the RIBA collection displays how the architect envisioned the building during the design phase.
Courtesy RIBA/The Hunterian, Univeristy of Glasgow
Builders at work in the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Library will be doing their best to channel the spirit of Mackintosh as they reconstruct the stricken building.

Like Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona, the impact of Mackintosh in Glasgow is undeniable -- a fact evidenced by his enduring international appeal and the national sadness at the fire which came close to completely destroying one of his greatest structures.
Jeff J. Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images