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.

108600 items
RIBA4429Villa Grazia, 173-10 Street, Asmara

RIBA4430Odeon cinema, Bihat Street, Asmara: the bar

RIBA4431Cinema Impero, Harnet Avenue / 176-21 Street, Asmara

RIBA4432Shell service station (formerly Agip service station), Decemhare Road, Godaif, Asmara

RIBA4433Shops and apartments (formerly Palazzo Mutton), Harnet Avenue / Ginda Street / Ad Ebrihim, Asmara

RIBA4434Swimming pool, 171-2 Street / Qohayto Street, Asmara

RIBA4435Apartments (formerly Alfa Romeo branch), 177-1 Street, Asmara

RIBA4436Market (formerly Piazza Italia), Asmara

RIBA4437Synagogue, Asmara

RIBA4438Central post office administration, Post Office Square, Asmara

RIBA4439Capitol Cinema (formerly Cinema Augustus), Denden Street, Asmara

RIBA4440Greek Orthodox church, Asmara

RIBA4441Ministry of Land, Water and the Environment, 194-2 Street, Asmara

RIBA4442Falletta Building, Harnet Avenue / Adi Hawesha Street / 176-5 Street / 176-7 Street, Asmara

RIBA4443Office building, Asmara

RIBA4444Bank of Eritrea, Post Office Square, Asmara

RIBA4445175-11 Street (formerly Lorenzo Tazaz Street), Asmara

RIBA4446San Antonio Church, Decemhare Road, Godaif, Asmara

RIBA4447Shops and apartments in former Adua Square, Nafka Avenue / Keren Street, Asmara: balcony with lion-shaped brackets

RIBA4448Ministry of Education (formerly Casa del Fascio), Harnet Avenue / Keskese Street, Asmara

RIBA4449Selam Hotel (formerly Albergo CIAAO), Maryam Gmbi Street, Asmara

RIBA4450Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, Arbate Asmara Street, Asmara

RIBA4451Degghi Selam, Arbate Asmara Street, Asmara

RIBA4452Mosque square, Asmara

RIBA4453Asmara Theatre, Harnet Avenue / Beleza Street: the auditorium

RIBA4454Regional Government Offices (formerly Commissariato dell' Hamasien), Eritrawit Ade, Asmara

RIBA4455Shops and apartments (formerly Palazzo Amoroso), Harnet Avenue / Mata Street, Asmara

RIBA4456Shops and apartments (formerly Sede del Gruppo Rionale Fascista), Segeneyti Street, Asmara

RIBA4457Catholic cathedral, Harnet Avenue / 176-17 Street, Asmara: the campanile

RIBA4458Workshop and service station (formerly Fiat Tagliero service station), Mereb Street / Sematat Avenue, Asmara

RIBA4459Grand Mosque, Selam Street / Ad Ebrihim, Asmara

RIBA4460Ministry of Health (formerly Colonial Police Headquarters), Denden Street / 172-5 Street, Asmara

RIBA4461Mai Jah Jah (formerly La Fontana), Marsa Teklay Street / 173-18 Street, Asmara