Saturday, 21 September 2019

A Raincoat For A Mackintosh!

Two great Scotsmen - on the left, Charles Macintosh, 1766-1843, on the right Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928. The first, a chemist, who developed a waterproof fabric, sandwiching rubber between cotton to make a durable, useful product. He gave his name to the mac. [and the company that bears his name is still doing well]
The second is a great artist and designer. The great CRM collection was housed in the Glasgow School of Art - but most of it was destroyed in two devastating fires in 2014 & 2018.
However, there are plenty of other CRM creations throughout Scotland. One is Hill House, Helensburgh, Argyllshire. Built in 1904, it was revolutionary in its design.
Every part of the house - from the shape of the rooms, the furniture, wallpaper and shades, was planned by CRM 
However the innovative choice of building materials, has meant this century-old property has begun to deteriorate - the Portland cement rendering has allowed water to penetrate the sandstone, and much of the interior is suffering from problems related to damp. 
This infrared photo reveals the damp parts [blue] and drier [red] So what did the National Trust for Scotland decide to do? Using Macintosh's rubberised waterproofing was not an option - that would seal the moisture in. The building needed somehow to be shielded from Scotland's frequent showers, and enabled to dry out. There are 190 days of rain each year in Argyllshire.
The solution is this amazing semi-transparent chainmail structure. The 'box' is a steel frame weighing 165 tonnes, swathed in a chainmail mesh weighing 8.3 tonnes.
Inside are walkways so that visitors can see all parts of the house at different levels.
CRM built this as 'a house for the future' and NTS hopes this 'raincoat' will help preserve his vision. The box, costing £4.5M has been granted Muesum status. The project took 5 months top complete.There's a new Tearoom/visitor centre on site too.
But the summer has been relatively dry. They need to check the structure will live up to its promise and keep the house dry [the hope is that less than 13% of rainfall will penetrate] So - and this is what put the biggest smile on my face- next Saturday [28th] there is a free Douse The House Event. Members of the public can turn up with their water pistols- and they will be asked fire jets of water at the Box. What fun! what an inspired idea. 
I would love to be there and see it, wouldn't you?


  1. Very interesting! I think Rosie would love to join in the fun!

  2. I've been a fan of CRM for years. The one thing I've always wished I could ask him was why he designed such uncomfortable looking chairs for Hill House.

  3. It sounds brilliant!!! What a super idea. It's such a shame about those fires. I hadn't realised how much of it had been damaged!


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