Dawson's Heights

Dawson's Heights

One might call Dawson’s Heights, Kate Macintosh’s housing scheme for Southwark Council, completed in 1972, ‘Daunting Heights’. As you approach from the north, its fortress-like structure appears quite intimidating. But this was never her intention. Like an Italian hilltop town, there is an element of enclosure, almost protection in the estate’s central court. A significant influence was Macintosh’s home city of Edinburgh. She wanted to exploit the drama of the hilltop location, not just for the residents, but also for the surrounding area. As Kate herself said in a 2017 interview ‘south London is pretty monotonous’ (compared to Edinburgh). Anyone who has walked along Princes Street and looked towards the old town with its vertiginous tenements would appreciate the comparison she makes.

Composed of two ziggurat blocks, the design of Dawson’s Heights recalls a student project by Kate for an opera house in Edinburgh. Shortly before her appointment with Southwark, she had worked with Sir Denys Lasdun, who had just been chosen to work on the National Theatre, where she designed a small experimental theatre. She also acknowledges him as an influence. He came to give a lecture at Edinburgh School of Art when she was a student and she admired his flats at St James’s Place.

So, we can see these elements coming together at Dawson’s Heights. A dramatic site, built on the spoil heap of the Crystal Palace railway. Staggered blocks provide depth, height and outstanding views across north and south London. While access bridges link the two blocks at a lower level.

Accommodation comprises 296 dwellings ranging from one to four-bedroomed units, the latter confined to the lower maisonette blocks. All the apartments are split-level with generous balconies and wide access galleries, large enough for delivery trolleys. All the living rooms are designed to face south, with fully fitted kitchen / diners.

Several of the images below are currently featured in the exhibition Dawson's Heights: Hilltop Community at 66 Portland Place, between 29 November 2018 and 2 February 2019. This exhibition has been created to complement the joint RIBA and V&A display, A Home for All: Six Experiments in Social Housing, which runs from 24 November 2018 to 30 June 2019 at the V&A Museum.

Feature by Suzanne Waters.

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101273 items
RIBA64332Berkeley Library, Trinity College, Dublin: students relaxing on the raked concrete benches by the east front entrance

 
RIBA64334Berkeley Library, Trinity College, Dublin: the entrance hall

 
RIBA84028Plan of Nottingham Castle


RIBA12953Plan of Nottingham Castle

 
RIBA84030View of Nottingham Castle with gabled houses and a church at the bottom of the hill

 
RIBA84031View of the north face of Nottingham Castle: elevation


RIBA3116-39"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: "Expando-Space", an expanding adaptable space

 
RIBA28004"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: multi-purpose foam block put to various uses

 
RIBA4684"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: over-bed cloud forms


RIBA4682"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: sketch annotated "Type of building for Expandospace Exhibition"

 
RIBA4683"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: sketch of room plan for Expandospace Exhibition

 
RIBA59992"Seco" prefabs


RIBA3455-59"Seco" temporary bungalow

 
RIBA59991"Seco" temporary bungalows, McLeod Road, Woolwich, London

 
RIBA42359(Former) Bedford Park Stores, Bath Road, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, London


RIBA34719[C] Space - DRL 10 Pavilion, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London

 
RIBA34720[C] Space - DRL 10 Pavilion, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London

 
RIBA105569’Devil’s Elbow’, Skyline Drive, Prospect Ridge, Nassau, for Mr & Mrs A. R. McDonald


RIBA607081 & 2 Laurence Pountney Hill, City of London

 
RIBA607091 & 2 Laurence Pountney Hill, City of London

 
RIBA800331 & 3 Wells Rise, St John's Wood, London


RIBA692521 and 2 Coach and Horses Yard, Savile Row, Westminster, London

 
RIBA60351 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London

 
RIBA156561 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London: the entrance hall


RIBA1019831 Boulevard Charles V, Nancy

 
RIBA279821 Bridge Street, The Cross, Chester, Cheshire

 
RIBA523511 Broad Street, Stamford


RIBA83801 Chester Gate, Regent's Park, London: leather screen painted by Mary Adshead

 
RIBA83771 Chester Gate, Regent's Park, London: papier-mache tray painted by Mary Adshead

 
RIBA83791 Chester Gate, Regent's Park, London: screen painted by Mary Adshead


RIBA702071 Coleman Street, City of London

 
RIBA702081 Coleman Street, City of London

 
RIBA702031 Coleman Street, City of London, at dusk


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