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Hill House, which Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed for Walter Blackie in 1903, stands with panoramic views of the River Clyde in Helensburgh, Scotland. The creation of a complete, entirely unique space, central to Mackintosh's architectural vision, defines Hill House. Mackintosh's facade carries on the tradition of brutal, strong, massive forms that echo the Scottish landscape and also the stone used in their construction. The exposed Cliffside upon which Hill House rests and the reference to Scottish baroque castles in the architecture calls to mind Swinburne's work "By the North Sea". A distinct mood is conveyed through the intensely weighted stone forms. The powerful force of nature, the sea and the weather and environment all had a strong impact on the façade of Mackintosh's Hill House. The small windows dotting the thick walls make obvious the need Mackintosh had for Hill House to withstand the test of weather and the passage of time.

The interior, defined by its functionality, lacks the indulgence in ornamentation familiar to Victorian spaces. Mackintosh famously argued that construction should be decorated and decoration should not be constructed. Evident is this absolute reduction of ornamentation in the clean lines and uncluttered spaces of Hill House. Inspired by the natural, Mackintosh's Hill House echoes the erotic embrace of purity, clarity and harmony in aesthetics. Mackintosh sought to create an entire space, a harmonious whole, designing every piece of furniture, cabinets, wall hangings and fireplaces in Hill House. These pieces reference the materials used in their creation, using nature to dictate form and quality with the familiar historical references to Greek and Roman architecture distinctly lacking from Mackintosh's designs. Simple, clean lines and white or natural colors characterize Hill House's mood with enormous attention paid to the constructional detailing of each piece of furniture and wall. It was through this attention paid to construction and form that Mackintosh felt the truth and moral integrity of architecture could be preserved. The transition from light to dark woods and changing patterns of shadows and space create a progression and sense of movement throughout the house. The flow of the rooms created by changes in light and color define and separate public from private spaces. Mackintosh pays particular attention to the sacred nature of interior space, the privacy of the home, a theme that flowed throughout PRB works. Hill House, characterized by a tendency toward the romantic, focuses on the importance of the individual patrons for whom it was built and the creation of mood and feeling. The power of architecture and design to evoke emotion and impact life gained prominence during this period of experimentation as the boundaries between the major and minor arts dissipated. Mackintosh's organic vision, shunning the industrial capitalism that was gaining momentum, sought to replace the art of construction and design to the forefront of building and bring interior design into the realm of high art.


1. The search for a regional architecture, representing and glorifying the splendor of each country characterized much of the work produced at this time. How is Scottish history evident in Mackintosh's designs?

2. Mackintosh's work seems entirely inspired by nature. Is there any reference to religion or God in his building style?

3. Mackintosh's simplistic architecture seems at odds with the zealous ornamentation found in Islamic and Indian architecture seen at the Great Exhibition or even Pugin's intensely ornamented Gothic designs. What do these aesthetic differences say about social attitudes and class hierarchies at the time?

Last modified 20 November 2004