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FIRST LOOK

Carmody Groarke completes see-through ‘shield’ over Mackintosh’s Hill House

  • 2 Comments

The transparent chainmail structure was designed to protect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House during its restoration 

After six months on site, London-based architect Carmody Groarke has completed the construction of a giant box over Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece. 

Considered the architect’s most famous work after the Glasgow School of Art, the Category A-listed Hill House is sited in Helensburgh, Scotland and was originally built for publisher Walter Blackie in 1902.

Hill House is a 20th-century Scottish tower house, characteristic for its slate roofing, roughcast walls and lack of ornamentation.

The project essentially consists of a wrap-around ‘porous cage’ which enables the crumbling structure inside to remain visible in the landscape while restoration work takes place – maintaining access to the house for visitors and protecting it as an ‘artefact’. 

The new museum’s walls are covered entirely with a stainless steel chainmail mesh. According to the team, the chainmail structure will help Hill House ‘to dry out after more than a century of absorbing rain’, and paves the way for further conservation work, thought to take up to 15 years. 

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The steel frame of the structure is cross-braced and grounded with minimum impact on the existing terraced-garden landscape.

Visitors are able to use raised walkways to see Hill House ‘from a new angle while offering views over the Clyde estuary’. Visitor facilities are housed in a standalone timber building.

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Backed by the National Trust for Scotland, the giant box is billed as the first of its kind. The house was gifted to the trust in 1982 but it has suffered from decades of extensive moisture ingress aggravated by its exposed coastal positioning, and its long-term survival had been under threat.

Carmody Groarke landed the job in 2017 following a contest in which it beat Denizen Works. Work began onsite at the end of 2018.

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Project data

Start on site December 2018
Completion May 2019
Client National Trust for Scotland
Architect Carmody Groarke
Principal designer Gardiner & Theobald 
Structural engineer Price and Myers
Building services Irons Foulner
Cost consultant Gardiner & Theobald
Project manager Gardiner & Theobald
Main contractor Robertson Construction
Form of contract and/or procurement Scape Venture

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  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • It'll be interesting to see the effect of the chainmail envelope on wind-driven rain.
    Meanwhile, as the restoration of Hill House takes a step forward, the salvation of the nearby ruins of the Cardross Seminary seems to be stalled.

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  • Industry Professional

    So who commissioned the special 'photo-op' spade in pic14?

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