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

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Carmody Groarke has revealed its proposals for a giant, transparent shelter over Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House to protect the landmark during its restoration and allow visitors to view its ongoing conservation  

Backed by The National Trust for Scotland (NTS), the project at the Mackintosh-designed landmark in Helensburgh is being billed as the ’first of its kind’. It will create a wrap-around ‘porous cage’ which enables the crumbling structure to remain visible in the landscape and open to visitors while the work is taking place. 

The Category A-listed grey house, built for publisher Walter Blackie in 1902, is considered the architect’s most famous work after the Glasgow School of Art.

The house was gifted to NTS in 1982 but has suffered from decades of extensive moisture ingress aggravated by its exposed coastal positioning, and its long-term survival has been under threat.

Carmody Groarke director Andy Groarke said: ‘The NTS is adopting a very bold approach to the conservation of the Hill House; one that is radical and experimentative in seeking new methods to extend the lifespan of our heritage, and one that invites public interaction and interpretation of these processes.’

NTS chief executive Simon Skinner added: ‘We are building what amounts to a shield around and above the Hill House to keep wind and rain out and give the building a chance to dry. The new structure is effectively a porous cage, albeit a beautifully designed one, that still allows some movement of air and a degree of moisture penetration.

‘While the Hill House is being protected from the elements, our conservation and architectural heritage teams can start work to find solutions that will respect the historic and design integrity of the building, meet the standards and obligations required by its listed status and ensure that this precious place will survive to inspire future generations.

He added: ’The temporary enclosure is see-through, which means that the building will still be visible from the outside, despite its respite from the elements after a century of being drenched. Not only will the structure allow us to keep the Hill House open to the public while our conservation teams are at work

Carmody Groarke landed the restoration job earlier this year following a contest in which it beat emerging practice Denizen Works.

The appointment – which NTS confirmed more than a year after the contest was launched – marked the end of a convoluted search, which is thought to have also involved Zaha Hadid Architects and Hall McKnight in the earlier stages.

Helensburgh

Helensburgh

Source: Image by Jeremy Atherton

Hill House

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Readers' comments (2)

  • chris Dyson

    This is wonderful to see creativity at work from the outset of a renovation project - this shows great promise for one of Charles Rennie MacKintosh's great house designs.

    The house demonstrates a unique Scottish character, with its use of space and subspace, similar to that of a Scottish castle tower plan such as Castle Campbell in Dollar, often cited by Louis Kahn as an inspiration for the served and servant spaces in his own architecture.

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  • Great to see the wonderful Hill House being properly looked after. However, not I think a 'first of its kind'. The remote Greek temple in the mountains at Bassae on the Peloponnese has been covered in a protective white tent for decades. I hope the Hill House shelter, however elegant, will not be around that long.

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