YOU don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. The last few times I’ve ventured into Glasgow, head lost in a podcast, I’ve absently let my feet take their usual route: Off at Charing Cross, a nod to the Mitchell Library, and then head up the Street of Dreams ...

Except I forget: the upheaval of the roadworks; the weird, permanently Sunday calm of the deserted pavements; and of course, the charred hulks of the ABC and the GSA. And then the dull and dusty front of the CCA.

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You can a step back into one of the side roads off Sauchiehall Street, and survey this ruined nexus of art and music. For me, it’s quite easy to become emotionally overwhelmed. Like many Glaswegians, I have much personal treasure buried in these places.

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Before it was the CCA, the Third Eye Centre was the place a young 1980s student would come to sample bohemia, buy lefty magazines and eat veggie meals. In recent years, it has only improved and extended its services – on behalf of weirdness, intensity and radicalism.

I also remember toiling up the hill next to it, depositing my first daughter at Saturday afternoon art classes at the Mackintosh building in the 90’s. There was sheer delight at burrowing into this place, its crannies, corridors and sudden pools of light. And then to discover your beloved wean, entirely lost in her watercolouring.

Underneath the Mackintosh sits the O2 ABC, which for many musicians became their gigging homeland. Our last Hue and Cry performance there was probably our most grandiose ever: horns, strings, backing vocalists, a full house under its supernaturally-large glitterball.

But what was most delightful was that, a day later, there’d be a queue round the block for some death metal outfit, or zydeco band, or 90s indie-schmindies ... The point being that the ABC was accumulating all the energy required, gig after gig, to become one of Glasgow’s greatest ever music venues (and that’s a pantheon and a half, all in the same postcode).

This is one of the lucky spots and times – when a city organically focuses its creative energies into one location. All the good stuff we want in a great city. And now?

Quite rightly, and reassuringly, there is something of a civic and political wave of anger rising about the sudden near-ruin of Sauchiehall Street and its classic creative institutions.

The local traders are saying that the £20k maximum payment per business, from a Scottish Government recovery fund of £5 million, simply doesn’t cover losses of up to 75% (due to non-existent footfall, as the burnt buildings are cordoned off). Appropriately, their lead advocate is from Biggar’s, the music shop, which has been trading since 1867 (and is down £135k).

Happily, the Centre For Contemporary Arts seems to have solved its wrangle with various bodies, in terms of its eligibility for relief funds. Expressing its DIY spirit, the CCA’s director Frances McKee has suggested a multi-part plan for reopening, involving giant tarpaulins and a roaringly re-opened bar.

The ABC’s fate as a venue is much more obscure, apparently still dependent on the safety work being done in the adjoining Mack. Its previous incarnations have been a cinema, a dance-hall, an ice-skating rink and a circus. As an entertainment palace, the building seems to have a historic destiny.

But glowering over all this, still an outrage and a tragedy to all eyes, is the twice-conflagrated Glasgow School of Art building. Going back over the coverage of the last few months, the one thing you note is that the lamentation was truly global.

Edwin Heathcote in the Financial Times called it “Britain’s greatest modern building ... The School of Art was a metropolitan monument, a marker that demonstrated how a building could be delicately detailed yet tough as old boots. It showed how beauty did not need to be effete, or even old-fashioned. Its intricate and intense library was among the most memorable spaces of early modernity.”

So, quite a double-destruction. The blame game for these fires – started in earnest at the Holyrood Culture and Media committee on Thursday – has quite quickly focused on two questions.

The National: Firefighters survey the damage to the Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh building. Picture: Colin Mearns.

Who should be in charge of what happens to this building and this site: The institution on whose watch it burned down twice in four years (meaning the GSA Board) – or some other? And: What exactly should its function be, when something is restored or revived in its place?

And actually, both questions relate to a prior fact which is being fiercely brandished, from the GSA chair Muriel Gray downwards: The Mack has always been a working building, housing art students and scholars, and in any future incarnation will remain so.

I’m in a quandary about how to respond to these factors. For example, the more one hears about the implicit flammability of the original design – the many timber-lined walls and voids, the flame-carrying ventilation ducts – you wonder how suitable it has ever been for art which involves ignition, or electricity, of any kind (the trigger of the 2014 fire).

We are assured the Mack could be reconstructed from the architect’s original plans. But how much would they have to be adapted, to ensure ultimate safety in a lively and constantly experimenting arts building?

If we wanted to exactly restore what is evidently a world masterpiece, maybe it should be taken out of the educational process, and placed firmly in the heritage sector. And whatever art practice might still continue there, would be (at the least) reliably inflammable.

Yet, on the other hand ... What would a 2018 Rennie Mackintosh do, looking upon the ruins of his greatest triumph? Might the genius not want to take the opportunity to update and reimagine the very idea of an art school? What kind of contemporary edifice, designed for what kind of purposes and practices, might equally justify its existence a century later?

The new building next door is a slab of abstract minimalism. It’s so clearly designed to be both a literal mirror of the original, but also respectfully distant from Mackintosh’s flows, curves and organicism. Any new design would have to maintain that contrast.

What a challenge for a contemporary architect! We are moving into an age where our relationship with the natural, technological and biological is at near crisis-point – whether we’re burning the planet, editing our genes, or seeing how far machines can match our human gifts.

Mackintosh’s own “art nouveau” sought to fuse the modern age with inspirations from natural form. Our version of that relationship might be much more tense and urgent – dealing with a “second” or even a “third” nature But what could a house of 21st century “new art” be, and look like?

To be honest, I’m not sure what pathway is best. One chunk of me would feel that to do anything less than rebuild the Mac, and future-proof it for another century and half, would be heedless. We can’t afford to lose this anchor to our national history of innovation and creativity.

But another chunk remembers standing in that side street and noting the all-round crumbliness of the area and its buildings. It’s been an arcade of fun, fine art and commerce for a century or two – but nothing lasts for ever. And sometimes, an accident clears the way for a creative opportunity. Maybe one that could better resonate with these quicksilver, information-driven times.

Sounds like somebody’s project! But at present it’s an eerily quiet dead zone. Let’s raise paradise, and avoid (at least) the parking lot.