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Fire engulfs historic Scottish art school

24 may 2014, 11:00

A blaze ripped through one of the world's top art schools in the Scottish city of Glasgow on Friday, damaging a historic building designed by the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, AFP reports.

All students and staff were safely evacuated from the Glasgow School of Art, officials said, after the fire sent smoke and flames billowing from one of Scotland's most cherished buildings.

Several students were in tears as they watched the inferno rage through the century-old building.

Firefighters said they had the blaze under control and were confident that the structure could be salvaged, along with most of its contents.

The BBC cited eyewitnesses as saying the fire was started by a projector which exploded in the basement.

"The most important work by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an architect of international significance, Glasgow School of Art is held in the highest regard by architects and the public alike," said the Royal Institute of British Architects.

"It was rightly judged to be the best building of the past 175 years, in a nationwide poll run by the RIBA.

"Damage to a building of such immense significance and uniqueness is an international tragedy."

Around 20,000 visitors from around the world visit the Mackintosh building each year, according to the school's website.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the indications were that 90 percent of the structure remained "viable".

It also said up to 70 percent of the building's contents had saved.

"Crews have been working absolutely flat out throughout this very challenging incident and it is clear their effort and skill has saved this treasured building and many of the items it housed," said assistant chief officer Dave Boyle.

"While the priority from the outset was to save life we have also been working closely with Glasgow School of Art staff to ensure firefighters conducted an effective salvage operation.

"We are of course very conscious the Mackintosh is a world renowned building that is a key feature of this great city, and that the artworks it stores are not only valuable but also cherished."

Glasgow-born architect and designer Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a leading exponent of Art Nouveau, whose distinctive lines and lettering remain influential.

He won a competition to design the building in 1897 and it took around 10 years to complete but is now a landmark in the city, with special government-protected status.

The school's alumni include recent Turner Prize for art winners Simon Starling (2005), Richard Wright (2009) and Martin Boyce (2011).

Others include "Doctor Who" actor Peter Capaldi, Harry Potter and James Bond movie actor Robbie Coltrane, and members from the Scottish rock bands Travis and Franz Ferdinand.

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