The first time I saw the Glasgow School of Art was at the age of sixteen in a history of art lecture at Salford Tech given by Peter Pester. He was our Art Historian and, like Travis, was far too accomplished to be teaching at such a place. He was brilliant at conveying the magnificence of a work of art. He was incredibly posh and dapper and he made me feel like a total scally scruff bag. But not in a condescending way, his aim was to empower. He just didn't dumb anything down which reinforced how erudite he was and, in comparison, how much I needed to learn.
As soon as I saw the slides of the intricate lines of stone and wrought iron with small pulses of colour I thought 'now that's it, that's what I want to do'. I can still remember it. I remember the feeling. The stretched verticality emphasised by black lines and spots of glowing paint or coloured glass looked (to me) much like my work at the time - I was fascinated by computer chips and circuit boards and glowing lines, think of Tron.
When I eventually studied there I fell more in love with Macintosh's other side - the functional side of the school, which in some ways is more impressive: its aim being about conceptual completeness as opposed to the decorative quality of the more extrovert areas. For example, in the basement where not many people went, long cream shelves would kick up, fly over the top of a door, then drop back down and curl into a box. What a way to terminate shelves, most people would just stop. Doorways are usually set into a timber box, a spatial experience, never just a door. And my God - his furniture.
If I ever had a problem with my own work I'd walk around looking to Mackintosh for answers. He never let me down, there was always a spatial sequence, a threshold, a detail or a piece of structure which miraculously dealt with whatever problem it was I was struggling with. And that's why it's a masterpiece - because it transcends style, time and function - forever contemporary and relevant. Every part somehow relates directly to its whole - I'd be stuck with a door problem and the answer would be found on the ceiling. It didn't matter where you looked - magic, mysterious.
This week - the fire, the library and chicken run lost. It's probably hard to fathom for people who haven't been to the Glasgow School of Art, and it's surprised me too, but it feels like such a loss. I know it's only a building, but a huge part of my history is wrapped up in those spaces which taught me so much. Only last week James Reed and I were discussing going up for the degree shows to see our old friend and look at its new neighbour by Steven Holl.
I feel for the students who were setting up their degree shows, again it's difficult to explain the uniqueness of what it means. The degree show openings have an electrified atmosphere.
I imagine the damaged areas will be meticulously recreated, which will be right for people who didn't see the original. It's the only possible response, I'd do the same. But for those of us who spent a lot of time there, it's gone forever. Strangely I wrote a post about this a couple of weeks ago - 'Everybody Knows'. If ever there was a building that generated that mysterious quality - it's the Mac. I doubt even Charles himself could recreate it.