Making a point, 15 billion times

glasgow school of art digital reconstructionOn the morning of Saturday 24 May 2014, as firemen watched over the smouldering remains of The Mackintosh Building, a team of data documentation experts from the Glasgow School of Art and Historic Environment Scotland stepped inside and set up powerful laser scanning equipment.

The spinning head fired a laser one million times a second, through 360 degrees, and by recording the angle and the time taken for the light to return would, ultimately, identify enough coordinates to generate a three-dimensional recreation of the building.

Fortuitously, the team had scanned the building’s exterior four years previously, allowing them to provide a rapid and accurate comparison post-fire. This proved invaluable in reassuring the city’s building control department that the western façade – which had borne the brunt of the blaze as it spread from the basement, where a projector had ignited solvent in a student’s work, up through vents to the iconic library – was safe from collapse.  Just a few heavy stones at the top had moved, by about 4cm, and they could be numbered, removed and later reinstated.

Another crucial contribution came in team’s ability to measure the amount of debris – 46 cubic metres – on the library floor. Structural engineers could confirm that the floor was also not in danger of collapse, allowing a forensic excavation of the material to go ahead. Sadly, very little of the library did survive – just 12 of the 10,000 books, which are being restored – but fragments of the structure are being reconstructed, or analysed to inform the reconstruction.

The scanning of the interior over the past two years is not only assisting architects and the School of Art’s restoration team, but it also promises to provide a ground-breaking record of the building’s life. A year later, a full 3D laser survey of the entire interior of the building was undertaken.

As areas changed, the team would re-scan – and by August this year it had a definitive version – comprising 15 billion data points – which, combined with a previous photographic survey by the Royal Commission and subsequent scans as the building is restored, will allow people to move around the building virtually and explore its history.

“We believe that it will be a really important and accessible record,” said Alastair Rawlinson, head of data acquisition at the School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation (SimVis).

“Something, that in 50 years’ time people will be able to use to look back at how the building changed over time, the extent of the damage it experienced in the fire and how it was subsequently restored as close as possible to Mackintosh’s original vision, all in a virtual 3D environment.”

SimVis has established an international reputation for its visualisation of the world’s heritage sites and the human anatomy, and in sound production and the use of 3D technologies in learning. Previously known as the Digital design Studio, it will formally launch as the School of Simulation and Visualisation next year, making it the fourth school at The Glasgow School of Art.

It is expected that work on the main structural envelope of The Mackintosh Building, including all external stonework, walls and roofs will be complete by July next year.

Work on the interior is scheduled to begin in February and be finished towards the end of 2018, when contractors, the School of Art and independent conservators will commission and install specialist items.

The building is expected to reopen by Easter 2019.

Why Mackintosh was ahead of Google.


Wolfson donates £450,000 to Mackintosh appeal

Brings to £18.5M the sum raised towards the £32M appeal

The Wolfson Foundation has donated £450,000 to the Mackintosh Campus Appeal,
it was announced today.

Paul Ramsbottom, the foundation’s chief executive, said: ³The Mackintosh Building is internationally renowned as a masterpiece of 20th century architecture at the heart of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA).

“We were impressed not only by the bravery, ambition and energy with which the School
has responded to the traumatic events of May 2014, but also by the sensitivity with which this restoration has been conceived ­ not in isolation, but as part of a wider strategic vision for the School¹s future.

“We are delighted to be supporting this important regeneration project, and helping to revitalise an outstanding building in the city of our founder’s birth.”

The Wolfson Foundation, established by Glasgow-born Sir Isaac Wolfson, is an independent charity thatsupports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities.

The Mackintosh Campus Appeal is supporting the delivery of an £80m development of the GSA¹s Garnethill Campus which will see the restoration of the west wing and upgrade of the east wing of The Mackintosh Building along with the purchase and conversion of the former Stow College building.

The Mackintosh Building will return to its original academic configuration as a home for all first year students and the specially converted Stow building will bring together the School of Fine Art’s disciplines for the first time in decades.