Post 150 -by Gautam Shah
A recent fire in Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh has become headlines’ news. Fires in Architecture Schools are common. Many such fires have occurred due to faulty planning, inept handling of interiors and poor maintenance. These are few random examples.
FIRES AT TALIESIN “There were two major fires at Taliesin that almost completed destroyed its living quarters. The first fire happened on August 15, 1914 and was caused by an act of possible arson. The second major fire at Taliesin occurred on April 20, 1925 and Wright's account in his autobiography suggests that it was caused by an electrical problem. Wright was at the home to witness the fire, informing a fire brigade. However, the living quarters of Taliesin were once again burned to the ground within several hours. While no lives were lost in this fire, Wright lost hundreds of Asian art objects that he had collected while building the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.”
FIRE AT FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE DELFT UNI of TECHNOLOGY “On the morning of May 13, 2008, a fire that started in a coffee vending machine on the 6th floor of the 13-story Faculty of Architecture Building at the Delft University of Technology (TUD). Delft, the Netherlands, quickly developed into an extreme loading event. Although all building occupants were evacuated safely, the rapid fire spread severely impact ed fire department operations, allowing the fire to burn uncontrolled for several hours, eventually resulting in the structural collapse of a major portion of the building. With the fire continuing to burn after collapse, damage was ultimately significant enough that the building had to be demolished.”
FIRE AT ART, DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE COLLEGE IN BROOKLYN “On February 16, 2013 Friday’s early hours, a fast-moving fire ravaged the top two floors of the historic main building at the private art, design and architecture college in Brooklyn, destroying dozens of art studios and the precious student works they contained. Firefighters battled the flames for two hours after the fire was reported at 2:13 AM, propelling ladders up to the fifth and sixth floors so they could shoot water through the windows, even as parts of the roof caved in. The blaze grew to four alarms, and eventually 39 fire trucks and 168 fire-fighters were summoned to the scene, on Willoughby Avenue in Clinton Hill.
FIRE at YALE ART & ARCHITECTURE BUILDING Fire on June 14, 1969 to this building designed by Paul Rudolph (1963) was disastrous. The design quickly became a sensation, appearing on magazine covers even before it was built. The building had an “intricate essay in flowing space and weighty mass on 36 levels”. Rudolph’s created a very complex interior, a tour de force of light, mass, and space, with great design attention lavished on every quirky corner. Rudolph originally wanted to have an atrium run the entire seven-story height of the building, but fire laws prevented it. Instead he created two large open spaces, one serving as a gallery and meeting room on the main floor, the other housing the architecture studios on the fourth and fifth floor. The rooms were arranged around these open spaces in a pinwheel-like pattern.
Due to the fire, in the short term, many students lost hundreds of hours worth of work. But the greater loss came with the renovations that took place after the fire, when changes effectively destroyed the quality of continuous space Rudolph had created. New partitions went up at the behest of student committees who were struggling to fit more and more into the overtaxed building.