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28 Sept 2021

Winner of RIAS/Scottish Government Client of the Year Award

The Hill House building is completely enclosed by an enormous chainmail box. Trees and a garden hedge stand in the foreground.
The Hill House Box, designed by Carmody Groarke | Image: Johan Dehlin
We’re delighted to have been named by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) as the winner of the RIAS/Scottish Government Client of the Year Award, in recognition of the Hill House Box project, designed by Carmody Groarke.

Several years ago, we were faced with a very difficult problem in how to preserve the Hill House. Following a design competition, we adopted Carmody Groarke’s concept of enclosing the entire building to protect it from the weather. The Hill House Box is the world’s largest chainmail structure, and is giving us the time and space to address decades of water damage and avoid irreversible destruction. Within the Hill House Box, Mackintosh’s building becomes the exhibit, where high-level walkways and other facilities allow visitors to appreciate the building and see conservation work up close.

The Box has already been a notable success, in that it has reduced the moisture in the walls, allowed repairs without closing the building, and has created much-needed additional space for a café and shop – while substantially increasing visitor numbers.

A view inside the Hill House Box, showing the Mackintosh building surrounded by a chainmail structure with metal walkways and staircases.
Inside the Box | Image: Johan Dehlin

The Client of the Year Award is sponsored by the Scottish Government. Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: ‘The Scottish Government sponsors the RIAS Client of the Year Award in recognition of the key role the client plays in securing the wider benefits of good design and architecture. I’m delighted to see the National Trust for Scotland win the award in 2021 for the unique and innovative Hill House Box project in Helensburgh, which has allowed essential and extensive repair work to be carried out whilst maintaining public access to Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece.’

RIAS President Christina Gaiger PRIAS said: ‘Not so long ago it looked as if the future was bleak for the Hill House. It would have been unthinkable to lose Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, and it’s thanks to the bravery of the National Trust for Scotland and the imagination of Carmody Groarke that its future is now secure. Together, their imaginative and radical approach has ensured vital conservation work can happen while bringing the public up close to this fascinating process.

‘The Hill House Box is one of the most unusual projects to have won a RIAS Award, and I am delighted to see the project also earn the RIAS/Scottish Government Client of the Year Award for the National Trust for Scotland.’

“The best clients are those who dare to think differently, and the Hill House Box is a physical manifestation of how clients and their architects can work together to create magic from even the most challenging brief.”
Christina Gaiger PRIAS
President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland

For more information about the winners of the 2021 RIAS Awards, see the RIAS website.

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