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Mackintosh’s Hill House to be sheathed under a protective veil

December 6 2017

Mackintosh’s Hill House to be sheathed under a protective veil
The National Trust for Scotland is to throw a protective veil over Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House in Helensburgh amidst mounting concern for the buildings structural integrity.

Carmody Groarke Architects have been commissioned to create a vast enclosure with which to protect the property from the elements to provide conservationists with a much-needed breathing space to devise longer-term solutions.

Finished in a then-experimental Portland cement the home has suffered extensive water ingress throughout its life courtesy of the west coast climate, saturating walls to the extent that its structural stability could be affected.

Following decades of piecemeal remedial steps the NTS has taken the unprecedented step of commissioning a giant protective barrier to fix the problem at source, buying time until, a lasting solution can be found.

Threaded by a series of gangways and gantries the dramatic sheath will also give visitors a unique perspective on the homes exterior, not to mention expansive views across the Firth of Clyde.

Andy Groarke of architects Carmody Groarke commented: “The National Trust of Scotland are adopting a very bold approach to the conservation of the Hill House; one that is radical and experimental in seeking new methods to extend the lifespan of our heritage, and one that invites public interaction and interpretation of these processes.”

The enclosure could be in place next year subject to a New Year fundraising drive and could remain in-situ for years thereafter.
As an added bonus the structure will allow visitors to experience Hill house in ways never before possible
As an added bonus the structure will allow visitors to experience Hill house in ways never before possible
The Hill House project has been costed at around £4m
The Hill House project has been costed at around £4m


#1 Posted by 42 on 6 Dec 2017 at 12:25 PM
This is the sort of proposal which usually exists solely within academia!

I like it.
boaby wan
#2 Posted by boaby wan on 6 Dec 2017 at 12:30 PM
wow, two design competitions later and this is the outcome? surely a scottish based practice could have been commissioned to deliver a tent?
I read the architect describing it as a "porous cage" surely that's the problem with the original structure too...
#3 Posted by SAndals on 6 Dec 2017 at 13:10 PM
Planning may be an issue - must be quite tall to get "expansive views over the Firth of Forth"?
Stevie Steve
#4 Posted by Stevie Steve on 6 Dec 2017 at 13:24 PM
What a massive waste of money, surely the rational thing to do would be to replace the leaking portland cement with a render that had the same characteristics aesthetically but performed better? Then renew any decayed structure?

A tent and being precious of non-performing materials is not conservation
#5 Posted by Bored on 6 Dec 2017 at 13:44 PM
Come on guys, calm it for once.

This is an ambitious project that will not only protect the building that needs a multitude of work to be undertaken but will also make a sceptical of the landmark and reignite it as tourist attraction where people will be able to see it in a totally new perspective. Surely more people visiting will help to raise more funds....
boaby wan
#6 Posted by boaby wan on 6 Dec 2017 at 14:11 PM
Come on Bored, at what point is this "an ambitious" project? It's a temporary roof protection canopy as seen on building sites around the land - NTS could have gone direct to scaffolding firms to propose this rather than running two competitions (both of which seem to have been abandoned)
#7 Posted by modernish on 6 Dec 2017 at 15:02 PM
Just wait to the Helensburgh Community Council get their falsers into this...oaft!!!
#8 Posted by CADMonkey on 6 Dec 2017 at 15:20 PM
A couple of observations...

1. Rather than a "New Year fundraising drive" should NTS not be looking to recover their costs from Charles Rennie MacKintosh's PI, especially as he was experimenting???

2. What would Charles Rennie MacKintosh do now? Surely he would simply accept that his experiment hadn't worked, look up his NBS and recommend the existing render/harling be hacked off and replaced with a more robust render system aesthetically matching the original....but not porous...simples.

Why erect a bespoke scaffold to allow conservationists to spend time posturing and thinking about a solution when the problem has been known "throughout its life" (around 110 years).

Get the technicians onto it.
#9 Posted by FitzHat on 6 Dec 2017 at 15:58 PM
Bizarre. In order to avoid removing some duff render, the NTS is going to completely isolate the building from its landscape and context.
Walt Disney
#10 Posted by Walt Disney on 6 Dec 2017 at 16:38 PM
I've got to agree with CAD Monkey. Unfortunately the building is outwith its defects liability period, but surely some action could be taked against the architect for a poor specification - try chapping Keppie's door and see what happens........

What would Mackintosh do if he was around now? He'd get all of that render hacked off and replaced with a modern, breathable, self coloured render. Geez peace!
Graeme McCormick
#11 Posted by Graeme McCormick on 6 Dec 2017 at 17:54 PM
Breathtaking waste of money. Replace with harling which keeps the rain out. Use the rest of the £4K and buy three other houses in Helensburgh like The wonderful Art Deco Green park and show case Helensburgh as Scotland’s citadel of domestic architecture. Last year would have been Helensburgh ‘s Housing Expo if Argyll and Bute Council had supported the efforts of Gareth Hoskins and others to stage it. Sadly the site earmarked is still largely undeveloped.
#12 Posted by monkey9000 on 6 Dec 2017 at 19:53 PM
Step 1: remove portland cement
Step 2: wrap building in some DPC's, DPM's and VPC's
Step 3: Apply modern breathable render to match existing texture, colour and dimensions
Step 4: Use the money saved to serve the destructive conservationists their notices
Nairn's Bairn
#13 Posted by Nairn's Bairn on 7 Dec 2017 at 08:16 AM
I agree with all the comments above about the futility of conserving failed finishes & details purely for historical accuracy. If you want these preserved, take photographs and prepare measured drawings.

On the plus side, it will be interesting to get up close to the higher levels and have a good old look through the windows of the half of the house you can't usually get in to. I always feel when visiting Hill House that the small areas open to the public are a mere taster.
#14 Posted by PJ on 7 Dec 2017 at 10:14 AM
Oh to be as wise as everyone on this page...I feel sure National Trust has just cobbled this together without considering what its doing and taking expert advice. They should just listen to you guys instead...
boaby wan
#15 Posted by boaby wan on 7 Dec 2017 at 10:28 AM
PJ, oh wise one - this is the outcome of two design competitions.
I wonder what the cost was to the firms that entered those, and the outcome is a tent over the building which could have been procured directly with a scaffolding firm, seems like a very bizarre outcome which doesn't meet the original brief or intention, could it be that the NTS have just cobbled something together with the architect they liked best rather than anything to do with the protracted competitions they ran?
#16 Posted by PJ on 7 Dec 2017 at 10:33 AM
#15, 'boaby wan', are you a disgruntled scaffolding firm owner? You seem convinced that such a company would be better placed to provide this. Disappointed you missed out on the contract?
boaby wan
#17 Posted by boaby wan on 7 Dec 2017 at 10:54 AM
PJ, if only - I would assume the contract hasn't been given yet.
I am interested how the NTS have gone about this, over the last year plus (?)
There was a competition to design a visitor centre, then that was scrapped, then there was a second competition, presumably with a different brief - then there is this scheme which is not the outcome of either of the competitions, I seem to remember a quote from the architect saying they had not won the competitions, so I am interested as to why both competitions have been abandoned (rumours of some very prominent firms on the shortlist(s)) in favour of something which doesn't appear to have been tendered at all, and has been awarded to a London based firm with presumably a very simple brief - put a tent over the existing building.
It seems a very convoluted, expensive, process given the end product - it seems the NTS doesn't know what it wants or how to go about running a design competition.
#18 Posted by CADMonkey on 7 Dec 2017 at 11:41 AM
Sounds like a very good example of why architects should not enter competitions, unless they are run by RIAS.
Although it is a disgrace that RIAS run competitions require architects to pay to enter. It should be free, at the very least.

If architects enter competitions they should expect to get taken advantage of....why spend hours on a design and give your ideas away your ideas for free to somebody you don't know?
That is just plain stupid.
#19 Posted by MV on 7 Dec 2017 at 12:48 PM
For me; its everything that boaby wan said.
Gordon Fleming
#20 Posted by Gordon Fleming on 8 Dec 2017 at 14:25 PM
This all feels like a poorly considered distraction. The images show walkways around the upper levels of the freestanding house. Surely the first thing that will happen in the conservation project would be the erection of a full scaffold tight to the building to get access to the finishes. The render can then be removed and the masonry allowed to dry out over a suitable period of time. The dramatic views in the CGI would therefore not be of a preciously contained house but of the access scaffolding. The problems of cement render and stone are well known as are the options for a solution. Why not just put up a suitable protecting scaffold and get on with it. The building will be restored earlier with the money spent, as it should be, solving the defects
D to the R
#21 Posted by D to the R on 11 Dec 2017 at 18:37 PM
Sheath the beauty !
Mbasa Ritchie
#22 Posted by Mbasa Ritchie on 11 Dec 2017 at 22:10 PM
Wonder if there's a potential who produces protective enclosures for sizeable erections......

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