Fresh off a successful appeal to support the restoration of the 19th-century walled garden at Culzean Castle & Country Park, The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA
is embarking on an even more ambitious effort: raising funds to conserve Charles Rennie Mackintosh's The Hill House. Located high on a slope overlooking the Firth of Clyde, the property is widely acclaimed as the Scottish architect's finest domestic creation. Mackintosh conceived of the whole building as a single work of art, incorporating architecture, interior design, and decorative arts into a unified whole.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to help the National Trust for Scotland preserve Mackintosh's masterpiece The Hill House, truly one of the most remarkable early modern houses in Europe," said Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director of NTSUSA. "Mackintosh was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, and the two shared many artistic inspirations. We are confident that Americans who are interested in architecture, interior design, and Scottish heritage alike will support this urgent conservation initiative."
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. Mackintosh relied on a harling (outer coating) of Portland cement to highlight the house's abstract forms. Ironically, his use of this innovative but untried construction method now threatens the future of The Hill House and its remarkable interiors. Persistent and increasingly damaging water penetration now 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.
"When thinking of Scottish buildings, many Americans will understandably picture ancient castles and historic houses in ancestral homelands, and they have given very generously to help conserve them," said Simon Skinner, Chief Executive Officer of the National Trust for Scotland. "In this case we have something very different, but no less deserving of support. This is an example from relatively recent times when a Scottish architect was leading the world and designing a place that has been a major influence on the way we all live now. Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Hill House is simply astonishing, and I hope that our wonderful US supporters can help us care for one of the world's truly visionary buildings."