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
RIBA4290Row houses 28, 29, 30, Am Weissenhof, Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart: detail of the street entrance to one of the three houses

 
RIBA4291Bergisel ski jump, near Innsbruck: the pinnacle of the run and tower head

 
RIBA4292Bergisel ski jump, near Innsbruck


RIBA4293Bergisel ski jump, near Innsbruck

 
RIBA4294Bergisel ski jump, near Innsbruck: the underside of the run showing the supporting structure and the tower head

 
RIBA4295Stage of the Sossnoff Theater, Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson


RIBA4296Acoustic element in the Sossnoff Theater, Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson

 
RIBA4297Richard B Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson

 
RIBA4298Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson


RIBA4299Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati: stairs

 
RIBA4300Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati: lobby

 
RIBA4301Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati


RIBA4302Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati: atrium

 
RIBA4303Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati

 
RIBA4304Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati


RIBA4305Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati, at dusk

 
RIBA4306Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles: pre-concert area

 
RIBA4307Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles


RIBA4308Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

 
RIBA4309Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

 
RIBA4310Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles


RIBA4311Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

 
RIBA4312Housing, Solarcity, Linz

 
RIBA4313Housing, Solarcity, Linz


RIBA4314Housing, Solarcity, Linz

 
RIBA4315McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago

 
RIBA4316McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago: broadband cafe


RIBA4317McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago: corridor

 
RIBA4318McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, at dusk

 
RIBA4319McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago: Mies entrance


RIBA4320Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

 
RIBA4321Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

 
RIBA4322Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge