Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House – when two roofs are better than one

Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House
Hill House has been draped in a gossamer-light membrane of chainmail. Photo © Carmody Groarke
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Fate has not been kind to the buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most iconoclastic modern architect. His masterpiece, the Glasgow School of Art, lies in ruins, doubly destroyed by two catastrophic fires, first in 2014 and latterly last year. “One may be regarded a misfortune; two looks like carelessness”, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, an equally iconoclastic and equally doomed fin-de-siecle contemporary.

Like Wilde, Mackintosh endured extreme reversals of fortune. In 1900, during a trip to Vienna, “Toshie” and his wife, the gifted artist Margaret Macdonald, were feted as Caledonian heroes by the secessionist movement and cheered through the streets in a flower-decked cart. From these intoxicating heights there ensued a slow descent into poverty and obscurity, exacerbated by the first world war, which severed connections with Europe and robbed Mackintosh of the sustaining influence and acclaim of his co-conspirators.

Prodigiously talented and famously temperamental, he died in 1928 aged only 60, of mouth cancer induced by excessive smoking and drinking, rendered mute in his final months by the disease and its treatment.

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