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
RIBA4391Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Trafford Park, Greater Manchester: close-up of the aluminium cladding and the Air Shard behind

 
RIBA4392Imperial War Museum North, Salford Quays, Trafford Park, Greater Manchester: close-up of the aluminium cladding and the Air Shard

 
RIBA4393Secretariats, New Delhi: wide-angle view of the Government Courts


RIBA4394Design for the Council House, New Delhi

 
RIBA4395Secretariats, New Delhi: the recessed entrance to the north block on Government Court

 
RIBA4396Imperial Delhi, India: index plan of layout


RIBA4397Delhi, India: unidentified aerial view, possibly "Temporary Delhi", of the Imperial Secretariat with circular walled site in background

 
RIBA4398Racecourse and Tomb of Safdarjungh, Delhi

 
RIBA4399Council House, New Delhi, under construction


RIBA4400Council House, New Delhi

 
RIBA4401Secretariats, North Block, New Delhi: the "topping-out" ceremony 30 September, 1927

 
RIBA4402Secretariats, New Delhi: plan of formal Indian garden


RIBA4403Great Place, New Delhi: a bullock and cart and a motor car passing through the columned entrance

 
RIBA4404Council House under construction, New Delhi: view from the Secretariat North Block

 
RIBA4405Public swimming baths, Putney, London


RIBA4406Public swimming baths, Putney, London: the recreation rooms over the car park

 
RIBA4407Public swimming baths, Putney, London: the public entrance and reception areas

 
RIBA4409Kettle's Yard, Northampton Street, Cambridge


RIBA4410Kettle's Yard, Northampton Street, Cambridge

 
RIBA4411Model of an arch from the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool

 
RIBA4412Odeon cinema, Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, London: the auditorium seen from circle right


RIBA4414Quincy Market, Boston, Massachusetts

 
RIBA4415Northland Shopping Center, Detroit

 
RIBA4416Sir Denys Lasdun with Philip Wood looking at the model of the library extension for the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)


RIBA4417Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London, seen from the Embankment

 
RIBA441832 Newton Road, Paddington, London: Kaye and Ronald Searle's Change of address card

 
RIBA441932 Newton Road, Paddington, London: the street facade


RIBA442032 Newton Road, Paddington, London: the balcony of the studio on the third floor overlooking Newton Road

 
RIBA4422Philip Webb

 
RIBA4424St Paul's Cathedral, City of London: the dome seen from the north transept


RIBA4426Professor George Aitchison

 
RIBA4427Bar Zilli, Sematat Avenue / Beirut Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4428Bar Crispi, Denden Street, Asmara