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.

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RIBA372737 Bidston Road, Oxton, Birkenhead, Merseyside: the dining room

 
RIBA3728Tricorn Shopping Centre, Portsmouth, Hampshire: the vehicle ramp at the west corner of site

 
RIBA3729Tricorn Shopping Centre, Portsmouth, Hampshire: the front along Market Way


RIBA3734Seagram Building, 375 Park Avenue, New York

 
RIBA3735World Trade Center, New York

 
RIBA3736House of the Future, Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition, Olympia, London: the sitting room


RIBA3737Design for the sitting room of penthouse flat, 26 Broadwalk House, 51 Hyde Park Gate, London

 
RIBA3738Odeon cinema, Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, London: the ticket booth

 
RIBA3740House of the Future, Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition, Olympia, London: the kitchen


RIBA3741Architect's home, Rungsted Kyst

 
RIBA3742Wildwood, Princes Drive, Oxshott, Surrey: the living room and hall

 
RIBA3743Wildwood, Princes Drive, Oxshott, Surrey: the kitchen


RIBA37441 Royal Crescent, Bath

 
RIBA3745Chrysler Building, 405 Lexington Avenue, New York: close-up of the steel-clad pinnacle

 
RIBA3746Forte's Crescent Restaurant, Festival of Britain, Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea, London


RIBA3747Dell Restaurant, Hyde Park, London

 
RIBA3749Casa del Fascio, Piazza del Popolo, Como

 
RIBA3750Garden seat, Rousham


RIBA3751Thomas Farnolls Pritchard

 
RIBA3753Chiswick House, London: detail of the Corinthian columns

 
RIBA3754Patrick Nuttgens


RIBA3755Stephen Rowland Pierce

 
RIBA3756Sir Donald Gibson

 
RIBA3757Theatre of Bacchus, Athens, with James 'Athenian' Stuart shown sketching in the foreground


RIBA3758Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions), Alhambra, Granada

 
RIBA3759Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakesh

 
RIBA3760Mosque and shrine of Moulay Idris II, Fez


RIBA3761Tiles and decorative plasterwork, Alhambra, Granada

 
RIBA3762Great Mosque (Mezquita), Cordoba: the dome over the bay in front of the Mihrab

 
RIBA3763Santa Maria la Blanca, Toledo: the arcades


RIBA3764Alhambra, Granada: Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of the Two Sisters) looking towards the Mirador de la Daraxa

 
RIBA3765James Stirling

 
RIBA3767Hatfield Technical College, Hertfordshire: the assembly hall and dining block with sculptural panel by Trevor Tennant based on the college plan


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