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Carmody Groarke wins contest for visitor centre at Mackintosh’s Hill House

Helensburgh
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Carmody Groarke has won the competition to design an ‘innovative and exciting’ temporary visitor centre at Hill House in Helensburgh

The project, Backed by The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and scheduled to complete in 2017, will increase visitor numbers and overhaul outdated facilities at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed landmark.

It is understood the studio was selected ahead of emerging practice Denizen Works in a tightly fought contest for the prestigious commission.

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

Built for publisher Walter Blackie in 1902, the Category A-listed Hill House is considered the architect’s most famous work after the Glasgow School of Art.

The iconic grey house – gifted to NTS in 1982 – currently receives about 20,000 visitors a year and runs at a £50,000 annual deficit. Issues it faces include outdated displays, limited space within the 425m2 building, a cramped café and inadequate toilets.

The building also suffers from water ingress and a significant restoration programme is expected to see the entire landmark surrounded by scaffolding in the future.

According to the brief: ‘We wish to appoint an architect to design a statement temporary building which complements Hill House and which is so exciting in itself that it significantly raises the profile of the property and increases visitor numbers to the site.’

Inspired by the ’brand noise’ surrounding restoration of Mackintosh’s Oak Room, GSA and Willow Tea Rooms, the project aims to double visitor numbers by 2021.

Transformation of Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s ruined St Peter’s Seminary into a new arts centre nearby, the RIAS 2016 Scottish Festival of Architecture and the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth in 2018 are also mentioned in the brief as key drivers.

It should be as pioneering as Hill House itself was considered in the early 20th century

The new building will include an admissions area, shop, kitchen, toilets, offices and interpretation displays.

The brief continued: ‘The temporary building should be as innovative and pioneering in 21st-century terms as the Hill House itself was considered in the early 20th century.

‘The introduction of a temporary building would provide the opportunity to develop a design which is much more adventurous than might be suitable for a permanent building; and which would allow for promotion and attraction of visitors in its own right.’

Proposals for the 250m2 structure are expected to be BREEAM-rated and capable of withstanding local weather conditions for at least five years. A modular building which includes a scaffolding design for Hill House may also be required.

Carmody Groarke founders Andy Groarke and Kevin Carmody receiving the AJ's Small Projects Prize in 2015

Carmody Groarke founders Andy Groarke and Kevin Carmody receiving the AJ’s Small Projects Prize in 2015

Carmody Groarke founders Andy Groarke and Kevin Carmody receiving the AJ’s Small Projects Prize in 2015

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