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
RIBA4356Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff: south concourse of the foyer

 
RIBA4357Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff: the Urdd Hall

 
RIBA4358Sir Hugh Casson


RIBA4359Apollo Pavilion, Sunny Blunts Estate, Peterlee

 
RIBA4361Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London

 
RIBA4362Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London: one of the service bars


RIBA4363Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London: the dining area

 
RIBA4364Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London; one of the hexangonal glazed dining areas

 
RIBA4365Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London: the dining area


RIBA4366Little Chef restaurant (now The Garden Cafe), Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London, seen from the pathway to the Inner Circle

 
RIBA4367Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, London

 
RIBA4368Crystal Palace, Sydenham, London


RIBA4370Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London: detail of the harlequin-patterned glass facade

 
RIBA4371Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London: close-up of the pinnacle

 
RIBA4372NatWest Media Centre, Lord's Cricket Ground, London: window detail


RIBA4373Mound stand, Lord's Cricket Ground, London: seating

 
RIBA4374Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London: view from the south-west

 
RIBA4375Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London: close-up of the sculptures adorning the main entrance


RIBA4376London Eye seen at night, South Bank, London

 
RIBA4377Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London: the Old Palace Yard with Marochetti's 'Richard Coeur de Lion' in the foreground

 
RIBA4378Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London, seen from the South Bank


RIBA4379Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London, seen from the South Bank

 
RIBA4380Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe and Church of St Andrew Undershaft, City of London

 
RIBA4381Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London


RIBA4382Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe and St Andrew Undershaft Church, City of London

 
RIBA4383Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe, City of London: close-up of the tower showing the entrances, a series of high triangular archways cut out of the diamond grid of the facade

 
RIBA4384Swiss Re, 30 St Mary Axe and St Andrew Undershaft Church, City of London


RIBA4385The Lowry at dusk, Salford Quays, Salford, Greater Manchester: view of the main entrance

 
RIBA4386The Lowry at night, Salford Quays, Salford, Greater Manchester: close-up of the entrance canopy

 
RIBA4387Urbis, Cathedral Gardens, Corporation Street, Manchester: close-up of double glass wall facade


RIBA4388Urbis, Cathedral Gardens, Corporation Street, Manchester

 
RIBA4389Byker Wall, Byker housing redevelopment, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

 
RIBA4390The Lowry, Salford Quays, Salford, Greater, Salford, Manchester: general view of the Lowry footbridge crossing the Manchester Ship Canal on the right