Located high on a slope overlooking the Firth of Clyde, The Hill House is widely acclaimed as Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation. Built for publisher Walter Blackie and his family in 1902-3, The Hill House remains a remarkably complete example of Mackintosh’s unique vision: an arresting mix of Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Scottish Baronial, and Japanese influences that anticipated the Modern movement by several decades.
Mackintosh’s wife, the artist Margaret Macdonald, collaborated with him on The Hill House’s fairy tale interiors – from the enchanted woods of the entrance hall, to the elegant rose garden of a drawing room with its extraordinary “Sleeping Princess” gesso above the mantle, to the embroidered panels of dreaming women surrounding the bed.
The exterior of The Hill House is striking in its simplicity. To achieve the architectural unity he desired, Mackintosh relied on a harling of Portland cement to highlight the house’s abstract forms. Ironically, his use of this innovative but untried construction technique now threatens the future of The Hill House and its remarkable interiors.
This is where you come in.
Conservation in Action: How you can help us save one of architecture’s treasures
In order to achieve an unornamented façade, Charles Rennie Mackintosh clad The Hill House in what was at the time considered a state-of-the-art building material: Portland cement. The unfortunate result has been persistent and increasingly damaging water penetration that places the house and its one-of-a-kind interiors at severe risk of falling roughcast, damp, and dry rot.
The National Trust for Scotland has embarked on a multi-year project that will result in a long-term maintenance and repair methodology. The conservation of the building’s exterior will take place in full view of the public so that visitors can experience firsthand the painstaking, groundbreaking work that goes into preserving an irreplaceable piece of architectural history.
The importance of this project has been affirmed by the prestigious Getty Foundation, which has awarded the Trust a grant for its work. Indeed, the preservation of The Hill House will have an impact far beyond Scotland, as the conservation of 20th-century buildings and materials – which often do not respond to traditional techniques – present challenges for preservationists worldwide.
Please help us to save one of the world’s most iconic and celebrated houses with a tax-deductible donation in support of The Hill House.