McGinlay Bell entered the Mackintosh Twin Dwellings Competition seeking contemporary reimaginings of Mackintosh’s Ideal House for an artist couple.
Requirements were to research Mackintosh’s domestic designs as well as his work generally and designs should reflect the requirements of modern contemporary life experienced in the 21st century. The competition was seen as an opportunity to explore and evolve a ‘manifesto’ of architectural convictions, in a manner similar to that of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The brief outlined that the house must provide basic provisions for contemporary living; a minimum of one single bedroom and one double master bedroom, a living area, a kitchen and utility areas, dining area and a studio/workshop sufficient for two artists to practice. Consideration was to be given to the ‘hearth’ provided within the home, as well as space for the artist’s library taking particular precedent from Mackintosh’s catalogue of work.
Found on the Edge of Knapps Loch, Flanked by a Thicket of Caledonian Scots Pine Trees, The Artist’s House Lays; A Cluster of Familiar Forms Nestled into a Hill.
A formal, linear plan abstracted along a central spine; the singular route through the hillside enters through the artist’s studio, passed the artist’s residence and covered courtyard, culminating in the lookout tower, giving panoramic views across the loch.
The external route creates a cathartic journey for the artist; from the stresses of the city to the serenity of the countryside. Allowing the outside to enter the residence, the beauty of the natural world can be at one with the house. The house becomes the plant in which the leaves of life can grow.
‘Life is the leaves which shape and nourish a plant, but art is the flower which embodies its meaning.’
Familiar forms create the silhouette from the entrance. A Pitched Roof. A Staircase. A chimney. The Semiotics of which leave one longing for home. Unadorned buildings with elemental abstracted forms.
Secluded from the world by the nature surrounding, panoramic views to the circumforaneous landscape offer the artist an escape from the bustling city, affording sanctuary and the freedom to think and the opportunity for personal expression. Upon entering the residence, the Japanese-inspired Irori hearth, upon which the house orientates, gives warmth. Each room borrows heat from the centuries old gathering space, offering a place for the artist to cook, sit and congregate.
The residence becomes the place where the artist retreats to conceive their art. To paint, to sculpt, to reimagine the world around them. In their home the artist is to be someone that strives for something more, for something beyond themselves.
‘Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful – more lasting than life itself…’
The ‘City’ dwelling is conceived of as a defensive tower house within a walled garden with a public gallery as the city ‘bookend’ to contain the site. This provides a degree of privacy to the house whilst still creating a street presence within the city and against the adjacent school of art.
The walls of the garden lead you in from the street and into the house, blurring the distinction between garden wall and facade. These walls become the defining element of the house which split the plan into a cruciform for the rooms to be placed around. The tertiary accommoda- tion of toilets and storage is located within the walls which is practical, but also makes them seem far thicker, thus highlighting the distinction between the rooms which each have their own floor level, finish and feeling.
The ground floor contains the double height studio, library and the reception hearth which greets you as you enter. The first floor is treated as an intermediate space between the public and private areas of the house. The second and third floors hold all the private spaces of the dwelling, furthest away from street noise.
The form is derived from Mackintosh’s own playfulness in massing. The envelope is broken down into separate elements which each have their own subtle, yet relating form. These cast shadow against each other and create an ‘aggregated’ massing of parts which relates to the rear elevation of the art school itself. A continuous concrete ‘skin’ is then draped over the massing adding to the totality of the block as a ‘tower house’ and giving physical and visual weight to the walls and facades.