NEWS that large parts of the exterior of the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building are to be dismantled is a further blow to the institution, and to the city.

With the devastating fire of two weeks ago having gutted the interior of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece , there had been hopes that the exterior at least might be saved.

Expectations have been diminishing however in recent days as experts increasingly warned of significant movement in the exterior walls and the danger of imminent collapse.

Controlled partial demolition will take place on the south wall and the architectural gem that is the west wall, taking them down at least to the building’s first floor. The East wall may yet have to follow. All of this will take time.

What happens thereafter is less clear. Rebuilding ‘the Mack’ to the architect’s original design is one option. This is made easier by the extensive documentation of the building as well as considerable expertise developed over the four years of restoration which has taken place since the building was previously extensively damaged by fire.

But it is made harder by the fact that there is considerably less public sympathy and support for an expensive restoration than there was the first time around.

There is are plenty of examples of countries and cities where landmark buildings have been restored despite extensive destruction: The magnificent Cloth Hall in Ypres, devastated during the First World War, Dresden’s Frauenkirche, lost to British bombing in the Second, but subsequently rebuilt as a monument to reunification of Germany.

This could be Scotland’s most ambitious and important heritage project, to renew one of the nation’s most recognisable architectural marvels. Or other courses could be followed: It is possible to imagine a competition to design a new art school for the same site, giving modern architects an opportunity to reimagine the art school for the 21st Century. Perhaps a hybrid option could be achieved – a new building incorporating rescued or restored elements of Mackintosh’s original.

Any of these options could provide skilled employment for many people and take advantage of existing expertise.

But the disruption already caused to many lives and businesses cannot be ignored. In some cases this has been catastrophic and this underlies the growing anger and loss of goodwill towards the School of Art, its management and any restoration project.

Whatever the future of the building itself, the future of Sauchiehall Street, the needs of local businesses and the wishes and views of residents, must taken fully into account, in any decisions that are made.