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
RIBA4183St Mary, Stratford-le-Bow, Stratford, London: reconstruction following war damage

 
RIBA4184Abbaye du Thoronet, Le Thoronet

 
RIBA4185Bridget Riley and John Weeks with Riley's murals, St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London


RIBA4187St Antony's College, Oxford: hall and common rooms

 
RIBA4188St Antony's College, Oxford: dining hall

 
RIBA4194Palau d'Esportes Sant Jordi, Barcelona


RIBA4195Selfridges department store, Bull Ring, Birmingham: the glazed entrance

 
RIBA4196Cover of journal Tee-Square & Tape, January 1928

 
RIBA4197Southside Halls of Residence, Imperial College, Kensington, London


RIBA4199Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Stuttgart: entry of pedestrian route ramp from entrance level into rotunda

 
RIBA4200Neue Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Stuttgart: detail of support of theatre arch

 
RIBA4202Department of the Environment, Marsham Street, Westminster, London


RIBA4203Banking hall, Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank), Vienna

 
RIBA4204Banking hall, Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank), Vienna

 
RIBA4205Banking hall, Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank), Vienna


RIBA4206Banking hall, Postsparkasse (Postal Savings Bank), Vienna, showing doors and air ventilation units

 
RIBA4207City Library, Stockholm: the central reading room

 
RIBA4208City Library, Stockholm: the central reading room


RIBA4209City Library, Stockholm: the staircase to the central reading room

 
RIBA4210Goetheanum, Dornach

 
RIBA4211Goetheanum, Dornach: handrail detail


RIBA4212Goetheanum, Dornach: the main auditorium seen from the stage

 
RIBA4213Goetheanum, Dornach: detail of the southwest facade

 
RIBA4214Goetheanum, Dornach


RIBA4215LF1 pavilion, Weil am Rhein

 
RIBA4216LF1 pavilion, Weil am Rhein

 
RIBA4217LF1 pavilion, Weil am Rhein


RIBA4218LF1 pavilion, Weil am Rhein: ramp detail

 
RIBA4219LF1 pavilion, Weil am Rhein

 
RIBA4220Eduard Muller Crematorium, Hagen


RIBA4221Eduard Muller Crematorium, Hagen: the chapel

 
RIBA4222Eduard Muller Crematorium, Hagen: the rear facade

 
RIBA4223Eduard Muller Crematorium, Hagen