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

Feature by Suzanne Waters.

108584 items
RIBA4099Park House, Park Place, Cardiff, seen from the west

 
RIBA4100Design for the interior decoration of an unidentified cinema auditorium showing a Venetian canal scene

 
RIBA4101Details of the Corinthian and Composite capitals, Baths of Caracalla, Rome


RIBA4103Design for a wallpaper showing dragons and flames

 
RIBA4104Copy of a Pompeiian decoration from the Villa of Cicero showing green dancing figures on gold bars

 
RIBA4105Design for a wallpaper or textile entitled 'Alena'


RIBA4106Olive Cook

 
RIBA4107St Catherine's College, Oxford: the dining hall seen from the east

 
RIBA4109Design for a nursery chintz entitled 'The house that Jack built'


RIBA4110Detail of colour decoration on clustered columns and springing of vault, Sainte Chapelle, Paris

 
RIBA4111Design for a wallpaper or textile showing birds among flowers

 
RIBA4112Design for a nursery textile showing a shepherd, squirrel and bird in a tree


RIBA4113Design for a wallpaper entitled 'The Callum'

 
RIBA4114Design for a wallpaper showing birds among grapes and leaves

 
RIBA4115Design for a wallpaper for Sanderson and Sons showing roses, hips and leaves


RIBA4116Design for a wallpaper for Sanderson and Sons showing pairs of birds among stylized leaves

 
RIBA4117Design for a wallpaper for Sanderson and Sons showing birds among stylized leaves

 
RIBA4118Design for a textile for Alexander Morton entitled 'Fidelis'


RIBA4119Design for a textile entitled 'Huntsman'

 
RIBA4120Design for a textile for Alexander Morton showing cornflowers, wheatsheaves and crows

 
RIBA4121Design for a textile or wallpaper entitled 'Crown and Tulip'


RIBA4122Design for a carpet and textile showing strawberries, leaves, flowers and birds

 
RIBA4123Design for a wallpaper showing eucalyptus leaves and flowers

 
RIBA4124Design for a textile entitled 'The Rose and Shamrock'


RIBA4125Design for a textile showing stylized yellow roses

 
RIBA4126Design for a fabric showing yellow roses and rose hips

 
RIBA4127Design for a wallpaper entitled 'Symbols of the Arts'


RIBA4129Design, possibly for a nursery wallpaper, showing birds and a squirrel in a tree

 
RIBA4130Design, probably intended for a nursery wallpaper frieze, showing a rural scene

 
RIBA4131Design for a nursery wallpaper or a textile entitled 'Great Kings and Queens'


RIBA4132Design for a wallpaper or textile entitled 'I love little pussy, her coat'

 
RIBA4135Deepdene, Dorking, Surrey: approach to the entrance

 
RIBA4136Two designs for semi-detached houses for Romford District Council, one for Osborne Road, Romford, London