A TOP architect has raised concerns about the future of the Glasgow School of Art's £100m restoration of its fire-gutted Mackintosh Building as it emerged it faced legal action over the botched procurement process.

New details have emerged that show that architects John McAslan + Partners were the original top scorers in the bid to oversee the rebuild of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building, which dates back to 1909. But it was then awarded to another firm, understood to be Hawkins\Brown after a recalculation, reports our sister title The Herald.

The almost year-long search for someone to lead the project was canned in March, in advance of a reset.

It is understood the reset came after the school received a pre-action letter from one of the other bidders challenging the final outcome.

Details which have emerged through Freedom of Information state that questions were raised by one of four shortlisted architect firms about how the bid had been scored after the original award.

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An architect is needed to pilot a "faithful reconstruction" of the grade A-listed building which was almost totally destroyed by fire in 2018, the second blaze to break out in four years.

The project is due to finish by 2030, but only preliminary work has begun.

More than 5,500 tonnes of fire-damaged material have been removed ahead of the reinstatement of the A-listed building’s internal structure and the installation of a temporary roof.

The Glasgow School of Art insists that the decision was "appropriate and fair" and that it was working with shortlisted firms as part of a review of the process.

Glasgow Times:

The Mackintosh building north facade. Photo credit McAteer.

In an email released to the Architect's Journal through FOI, in which which the parties’ names were blocked out, the unsuccessful team asked: "We were disappointed to have lost because we put a huge amount of work into our bid and felt that [we] were uniquely placed to restore this fine building.

"Our firm has done bids for many years, but we have never lost on such a narrow margin."

It went on: "This has resulted in the wrong outcome being announced to bidders."

Later an internal GSA email is said to have confirmed errors had been found with the scoring process and that 'an issue [had] arisen with the outcome of the Architect Led Team tender evaluation".

Professor Alan Dunlop who put his name forward to be the next chairman of the Glasgow School of Arts said of the developments: "It is another disaster for the GSA and once again damaging for the board.

"The whole process will have to start again and a whole year of work, from March 2022 on the procurement has been scrapped and the process will have to start again. It will cause further delay, no doubt to the reinstatement program and probably causing any other architect to think hard about submitting a bid for the project. A lot of work and money have gone into the initial bid, only for the process to be scrapped."

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Mr Dunlop, who is a GSA alumnus added: "There might also be a a legal challenge for recovery of time involved and money spent making the bids."

GSA had contacted all the shortlisted practices to say it had withdrawn its initial notification letter, which said John McAslan + Partners had topped the scoring.

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According to the FOI, the message read: "[Errors identified within the scoring matrix have] resulted in inaccurate outturn positions on both the technical and price evaluation."

The art school plans to use as much of the original fabric of the iconic building as possible for the restoration of the building.

When the procurement process was launched last March, the successful team was expected to be appointed by October.

After details of the botched procurement emerged, the art school said the reset decision "will not impact on the timing or funding of advance works to the Mackintosh Building announced in January 2023".

The GSA has said it wanted to bring on board an external procurement consultant to advise on the new process and to support them "practically and procedurally in delivering a demonstrably open, fair and compliant process"

The iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building was gutted on June 15, 2018, while nearing the end of a £35m restoration project following an earlier fire in 2014.

Glasgow Times:

Debris cleared from within the building. Photo credit McAteer.

More than 120 firefighters tackled the 2018 blaze at its height. The flames also took hold of nearby music venue the 02 ABC.

In October 2021, the Glasgow School of Art ruled out constructing a new building and for a ‘faithful reinstatement’ of the architectural masterpiece.

The GSA said in the wake of the documents release: "The procurement exercise was closed and no appointment was made following the identification of a technical error in the scoring matrix used. We took this decision after careful consideration and believe this was the appropriate and fair decision to take.

"The decision was shared in advance with the firms who were shortlisted and we would like to again thank them for their participation in the procurement process, recognising the considerable time, effort and resource they invested in tendering for this work.

"In our statement of March 1, 2023, we were clear that we would review the process and this will inform how we approach the procurement going forward.

"We are committed to bringing on board a third party to undertake the review and to work with us on the next procurement process, applying the insights on the original process which have been shared with us following the announcement and in our discussions with the shortlisted firms and taking on board the lessons learned from the review."

Hawkins\Brown declined to comment. John McAslan + Partners were approached for comment.

The GSA was approached for further comment on the concerns around the legal dispute.