Living Building

COLLECTION III

What if the community was given a voice?


For this new collection, we travelled to Glasgow - a city very close to the hearts of the SNQ team.

In 2014, a catastrophic fire almost completely destroyed the Mackintosh building, possibly the most important landmark of the city, and a world-famous architectural masterpiece. Since 1909, headquarters of the Glasgow School of Art, the "Mack", uninterruptedly served as a house for culture, arts and design, being home to generations of creatives and artists from all over the world. It remained open through both world wars and withstood various social and economic changes, earning an informal title of the Living Building. The 2014 fire was the first ever factor that shut the doors to the Mack, for it to undertake reconstruction.

The process was almost completed when, in June 2018, a new fire erupted on the west wing of the building, destroying all the work done in the past 4 years, leaving it in the most vulnerable state since it’s been first constructed.

To say that the incident made people upset is a huge understatement, and more voices than ever were raised criticising the resources that were, again, directed to the GSA. Conversations about the privileged role of the school and its lack of integration with the local community, started once again and lauder than before. Criticism towards the “internal” character of the GSA, a famous international institution, detached from its local community, became visible in the media, highlighting the willingness of Glaswegians to be able to participate and be a part of the conversation about the Mack – an icon, that many feel a personal attachment to. Even Darren McGarvey, artist, activist and author of “Poverty Safari”, who grew up in the Pollokshields - a neighbourhood on the south of Glasgow, brings it up in his bestselling book. He put in print what many of the Glaswegians were already saying, stressing the striking contrast between the attention and support given to GSA in comparison to negligence and dismissal towards the citizens and areas of the city of a way more vulnerable, unprivileged social fabric.

We joined Saturday School, an event organised by Agile City in the community-run Civic House, to discuss and build on the issue of the future of the Mack. We teamed up with Mobile Print Studio and run a workshop, imagining a future when GSA isn't the sole beneficiary of the building anymore. The Mack would now be fully rebuilt in its original form, and it would cease to be a school of art and design with a careful admission process. The citizens of Glasgow could reclaim that space and imagine new ways the building can serve the community.

We asked our participants (and ourselves) - What if the citizens of Glasgow were given ownership of the Mackintosh building?  What would you like to use it for? What would happen inside?

Our participants were almost exclusively from non-creative backgrounds, neither were they alumni of the GSA – what we believe, made this workshop even more important. What’s fascinating, the results of it ended up being joined by a very strong, overarching theme – art and design were still there, but in a form different than today. Explore The Living Building, our newest collection, to see all the future services for the communal Mack and let us know what you think!


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