Appreciation of Construction

Table of Content


            To appreciate architectural work, one must look into two varied point of view, the historical or cultural implication of the building the technical aspect of it. Unknowingly, people build houses that reflect cultural values of their generation being unaware of scientific explanation for architectural designs.  Houses are expressions of cultural life of the people, which influenced the society as a whole; a celebration of religiosity, commerce and industry, and or civil administration that characterize a certain country or community. Building constructions reflects the lifestyle and function of people in the society as well as the existence of their social processes.  Houses were modified according to existing circumstances that affect people’s lives, thus, tailored to suit new circumstances as what many historians explain.  Dominic Perring explained, “Houses are exciting things to study because they sit at this boundary between cultural and economic, between personal and collective, between real and imagined” (Perring, p. 5).  He also added that the design of the house are influenced by many factors such setting, climate, laws of physics, building materials, and labour as an expression of their “articulation of morphological and decorative language” (p. 5). 

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            The two houses that the researcher would like to compare are the Hill House in Helensburgh and a private property in Worsley, Manchester negotiated for rental by Houseladder with Reference number 180625.  The former was built during the early part of the twentieth century (1902 – 1904) by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  The latter is a semi-detached house built in1997 and is offered for rent by Houseladder.  This bungalow type house is situated in a beautiful village in Manchester accessible to any main destinations such as the Main City, airport and train stations heading to south, north, east, and west points. These two houses exist until today and serve different purposes.

            The stunning house called Hill House at Helensburgh near a very lovely view over could be seen from elevation an aerial sight of sea and well-landscaped garden around it. It was considered the most famed architectural work of Mackintosh, which was built for Walter Blackie and his family.  The building, which reflects the Scottish baronial traditions, has many functional areas that give comfort to the family for all its purposes.  Its kitchen and wash area are located at the ground floor; the first and second floor provides playrooms for children at the bay side; its dining room is located at the south-eastern corner; major rooms of Hill House are facing the panoramic seascape.  Today, the Hill House is under the ownership of National Trust for Scotland for the intended for public viewing and gathering since 1982 after it was donated to the agency for maintenance and housekeeping.

On the other hand, the modern house in Worsley, Manchester is offered to public for rent or for sale, which is under the supervision of Houseladder for negotiation after it was abandoned by its original settlers.

External wall construction

            The two types of houses are entirely different in its exterior structure and design, and in the kind of materials used in the building.  Hill House presents a castle-look house at the hill surrounding beautiful gardens, while the house in Manchester is situated in the middle of many houses in the suburban of Manchester.  This house in Manchester is rectangular in shape with decorated bricks on front side of the house, while Hill House has no definite shapes in grey colour that add sensation to the place.  Moreover, Hill House has thicker walls than house of 1997.  The thickness of the building is connected to the stability of the house since most of the components of the building are stone or rocks joined together for compression.  Esmond Reid stated, “The higher and thinner the wall, the greater the danger becomes” (Reid, p. 4).

            However, the two has some similarities.  One is that, the house follows a traditional design with motifs that reflects the culture of the past; and second, their roofs are of same construction though different in material used.  Hill House is a typical Scottish house while the house in Manchester follows the Roman house design.  These two houses are common in roof construction which is a bended type.  This explains that this kind of roof avoids breakage or collapse due to overload in case of compression.

            The following are brief description of the two houses.

The external part of the Hill House has greyish blend, which is asymmetrical that forms different shapes on the outside that no two sides or views are identical.  Its exterior part is basically the opposite of the interior of the building for it is very simple avoiding too much decoration in order to emphasize the interior design of the building.  It is a Scottish baronial type of house in an L-shape with tower on one side of the building. Its greyish colour reflects the sensation and atmosphere of the environment. Reid emphasized that tower and shapes of the house can help minimize the effects of strong area to the building; he said, “Any wall of the tower will be helped in resisting wind load or other forces by the side walls flanking it” (p.5).  The arch, dome and vault also helpful in the compression in order to prevent from damage or destruction.

The 1997 house in Manchester is a three-storey building with a landscape in front garden.  It has a gate and fence around it with driveway going to garage.  The garage has centralized heating system, which could be used as a gym and office; and doors in the garage are operated by remote control. The front building is made up of red bricks as a decoration; this is typical example of a luxurious type of house from the outside to inside. The use of bricks is explained as “fashion for the smooth ordering of domestic affairs within a prevailing social orthodoxy” (p. 5).  The red bricks imply the touch of the late nine-century house models of England.

            Mackintosh used wrought-iron gate at Hill House, for its graphic and allusive qualities; according to David Brett, “this gate gives an indication of what lies ahead within the vernacular massing of Hill House itself” (p. 115).

Interior Design

            The similarity of the two houses is space factor of the houses.  Both houses value space in every aspect of the building to allow free disposition.  The difference is the psychological effect of interior design.  Hill House design within has emphasis on the softness and creativity of a woman.  Its simple less decorative walls create peaceful spirit all over the house.  On the other hand, the house in Manchester is a distinctive modern house with decorative walled paper around every room.  The house has undergone minor changes to suit the taste of the people who live there.

            In the same way, both houses have braces within the interior. Reid explained that braces support the whole structure from collapse (p. 19).

            Below discusses detailed description of the two houses.

Jeremy Howard compared Hill House to a feminine.  It was basically the interior that present that environment if warm, exotic and decorate which is opposite of its exterior that is very masculine.  The interior design is very feminine for it suggests different feelings and emotions through combinations of colour, lighting, and materials.  Mackintosh designed the interior of the building along with furniture and fireplaces having white as the dominant colour with shades of pale greens, pinks, and silver. Jeremy Howard mentioned, “There is serenity to Hill House that is derived from the subtlety and delicacy of the designer’s creation of psychological space” (Howard, p. 63).  The interior of the building is a box-like hall passage; dark wood linings were imbued in the dining room to affect masculine feel.  In contrast, the main bedroom is designed as a female domain because of light and irregular plan, while in between rooms at the hallway has abstract colour combination of blue, pink, purple, and green with white as the dominant shade.  Generally, the house is full of light as you walk from the hallway to different rooms of the building.  Also, the dark wood shaped in linear forms decorated the walls.

On the other hand, the bungalow house has central heating system all throughout the house through a radiator having thermostatic controls. The first floor contains functional areas such as kitchen, dining room, and living room with fireplace made of marble. The second floor includes the master bedroom about 14’ 3” x 12’ 2” in size, two smaller bedrooms that overlook the garden, and a beautiful bathroom.

Ground and upper floor construction

            The designer of Hill House paid attention to details such as colour of flowers, patterns of butterflies, swifts, seedpods, and embryonic female forms on walls.  At the centre of the building constructed a glass roof at the heart of the building, which is accessible by a stairwell leading from the reception area; this creates the effect of a grove with the help of lightings in the area. The first and second floors contain three bedrooms and other functional rooms.  The porch in Hill House according to Brett has stencilled design, which is “the ghost of art botany floats through the geometric mesh” (Brett, p. 115).

            On the other hand, the house in Manchester model of 1997 is described as has entrance hall facing a hallway that leads the other end to a Garage door.  The Ground Floor provides many functional rooms; it features utility room for washing and drying that connect to garden functional room, which could be used as an additional bedroom.  The former owner of the house used this area as his office.

Doors and windows

            Jeremy Howard described Mackintosh’s Hill House as having irregular entrance and windows.  The north entrance façade has horizontal elongated rectangle; most windows are “plain inserts in the unworked wall devoid of decorated surrounds” (Howard, p. 62).  Irregularities of entrance and windows are characterized by having extended tower and fortress-like window slit that acts as a counterpoint to the industrial effect; something like Scottish Free Style.  Every door was completed by leaded glass panels and his adaptation of the baronial architecture is manifested in doors and window design.  Its huge windows were braced by ornamental wrought-iron brackets.

            The 1997 semi-detached house in Manchester used the typical casement style of window attached to grilled windows and classical door with front screen to alter unnecessary lights and matters from coming in. Windows and doors of this house are less decorated symbolizing the modern art of architecture.

Also, it is observed that both houses have smaller entrances.  It is well explained that in case of modern houses small doors are common but not in a castle type house built many years ago.  The Hill House despite its huge building has smaller entrance.  This well explains that small entrance prevents too much air pressure from coming in the house according to Reid (p. 41).

Roof construction and materials

            Apparently, the roofs of two houses are triangular in shape pointing the other end upward.  This has been explained that this roof construction lessens the tendency to collapse.  Aside from that, this roof type is also appropriate for houses on the hillside for it helps lessen the impact of air pressure to the building.  The typical roof construction of Hill House along with its asymmetrical shapes of the building is suitable to its location and weather type since it is situated at the hill facing the sea.  Meanwhile, the house in Manchester is placed in a temperate climate common to most of the cities of England.  Both houses used tiles in roofing the house, which is identical to old types of European house.

 Since Hill House could be considered as a modern house, though it is comparable to a Scotland castle (a combination of classic and modern type), its design is a transition from classic to modern. The builder designed a slated roof for the house covered mostly of red tiles.  He used iron beams with a high, lightly arched glass roof at the centre of the house; as Daniel Brett commented, “Mackintosh was moving towards his mature work that the use of steel frames for construction was becoming common practice (p. 97).  The use of steel-frame as explained by Reid is common in the early engineering of the house; he said, “A steel bridge must not sway unduly in wind” (p. 11).

The slated roof of Hill House is considerably appropriate in its location since it stood at the hill being exposed to pressures from the wind at all sides.  Reid explained, “Wind blowing over a roof can cause a net uplift because it exerts less pressure that the air underneath.” (p. 41).

            According to Thomas Hauffe, some of the materials used by Mackintosh in the construction of the building; are hot air vents, aluminium sheathing, rivet heads, and iron beams (Hauffe, p. 56).  Mackintosh also utilized hand made materials in the construction of the house; some of these materials were wood, metal, enamel, and glass. It is evident the way he did the unique and coloured decoration around the walls, windows, and door of Hill House; for walls Mackintosh used local sandstone and plain roughcast.

            The roofing of the house in Manchester is made of asphalted materials that cover the entire house.  The building is constructed using concrete materials with bricks to decorate the front side of the house. It is made using main materials such as timber, iron, and cement.

Heating and ventilation

            Reid noted that, “good thermal protection from the enclosure means greater comfort and ever more important, less energy consumption in heating and cooling” (p. 43).  The building design could eliminate unnecessary temperature in the building and ensure heat transfer all year round.  In this way, entrance of air has to be considered; attic helps prevent too much heat and too much cold.

The two houses use different ways of ventilating and heating the house.  The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland has fireplaces that keep the integral house warm; and, on summer, its large windows in many functional areas of the house helped ventilate the entire house.  The lighting from screens and lampshades help warm the room.  Also, the thick wall of the building helps maintain balance temperature inside the whole building.

            The modern house in Manchester uses technology in order to keep it warm during winter and ventilated during summer.  It has air-conditioner freshens the building.  During winter, the house has central heating system all throughout the house through a radiator having thermostatic controls.

            Both of these houses designed big windows for every functional room to allow air to enter the house, which is the natural means of keeping the entire house cool and comfortable.

Utility services

            Hill House contains ground floor, first floor, second floor, roof, attic, basement, east and west elevation and bedrooms.  Its L-shape building provides for more functional activities in the house including study area, music area, recreational purposes, nursery, children’s bedrooms, and domestic activities.  The building has a specified place for doing utility works.  This is located at the ground floor in the ‘service wings’ that houses the kitchen and wash area.

            In the same way, the other house is very spacious, which can accommodate comfortable living.  Its huge dining area is ideal for family with diverse activities.  It has gym, which is convertible to office; its bedrooms are situated in the first and second floor of the house; its utility room is located at the ground floor, which has access to the garden at the back of the house; and, a separate room is provided for guests and for other purposes.

            Nowadays, the Hill House is used as a school under the supervision of National Trust of Scotland, while the other house is for rent after it was abandoned by the original owners.


            Houses in United Kingdom and in many part of Europe conform to historical and cultural characteristics of the time. Hill House is similar to a Scottish castle in form and structure while the house built in 1997 conforms to the Roman type of house in terms of units of space (rooms and gardens) and the pathways that articulate those spaces.  Houses in general represent and describe social and economic status of the owner.

            However, both houses have distinguished characteristics that conform to the period where they were constructed and to the technology of that period.  Basically, both conform to the existing lifestyle and cultural values of the people.

Although both are distinct in design, the two houses, the Hill House, and 1997 type of House in Manchester have spacious rooms and landscaped garden all around.  In history, most of houses in United Kingdom have Roman influence that is why; most of houses regardless of style have same patterns in terms of space and pathways.  Roman-British houses provides enough space to perform different functions at home, and in case, transformation of furniture; this has been emphasized by Perring when he explained, “In proposing to different spaces, it is important to remember that there would have been flexibility in the use of domestic space” (Perring, p. 11). Space is also a demonstration of wealth and status for Romans for they use to hold gatherings at home accommodating many visitors from affluent origins.  Pathways that link to different rooms are common to Roman type of homes. This is a manifestation of Roman influence in this country, which has been prominent in old buildings of Romans.  In this way, we can characterize and describe Hill House and the modern house built in 1997; having pathways that link one functional area to another as well as huge spaces such as in dining room, bedrooms, living room, and other functional areas.  Also, two or three-storied buildings are common in this country.

            The contrast between the two houses involves the technology in the making.  Mackintosh used hand-made materials to form shapes of wood, metal, enamel, and glass for flooring, beams and braces, windows, and furniture of the house.  The house is also made of natural materials such as stones, local sandstone, plain roughcast, wood, metal, enamel, and glass.  Mackintosh spearheaded the use of decorated steel in many parts of the building such as the main gate and windows grills.

            The house in Manchester built in 1997 is a combination of classic and modern England house, in which the exterior building has red bricks to decorate the building with roofs having double-triangular in shape.  The building made of materials which are produced by modern technology, is a reflection of modern culture and lifestyle of the twenty-first century English.

Work Cited

Internet Source

Worsley, Manchester, Greater Manchester Property Reference 180625,’ Hot Property Renting: UK’s Independent Property Website,

‘Hill House in Helensburgh.’ The Armin Grewe Homepage,


Brett, D. 1992,  C.R. Mackintosh: The Poetic of Workmanship, Reaktion Books, UK.

Hauffe, T. 1998, Design, Laurence King Publising, Great Britain.

Howard, J. 1996, Art Nouveau: International and National Styles in Europe, Manchester University Press, UK.

Perring, D. 2002, The House in Britain, Routledge, London.

Reid, E. 1984, Understanding Buildings: A Multidisciplinary Approach, MIT Press, England.

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