The Hill House is arguably Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s residential masterpiece, one of Scotland’s most acclaimed buildings, Grade A listed, and a seminal part of early 20th century European architecture. A hybridisation of tradition and invention in the construction of the building led to some fundamental long-term problems of prolonged water damage. The National Trust for Scotland determined that a major conservation project was needed to avoid irreversible destruction.
Rather than incarcerate the house away from view whilst the restoration was undertaken, a more radical approach to active conservation was taken. As an integral part of this conservation process, which could have taken up to ten years, a ‘big-box’ temporary museum to contain and protect The Hill House as an ‘artefact’ was built, allowing the house to dry out and be conserved, whilst enabling visitors to see the conservation process first hand and maintain public access to the historic interiors.
The new museum’s architectural identity is that of a huge, abstracted garden pavilion whose walls are covered entirely with a steel chainmail mesh. The galvanized cross-braced steel frame was designed to be grounded with minimum impact on the existing terraced-garden. This semi-permanent enclosure provides a ‘drying room’ shelter to the original house, whilst its rain-soaked existing construction is slowly repaired. The chainmail reduces rain penetration while allowing airflow for the building to breathe and dry naturally and sufficient light for trees to grow, bees to pollinate the garden and to naturally daylight the structure. This elegant enclosure also allows uninterrupted views, night-and-day, to and from the garden to Mackintosh’s architectural icon.