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.

108601 items
RIBA4462Grand Mosque, Selam Street / Ad Ebrihim, Asmara

 
RIBA4463Municipality, Harnet Avenue, Asmara

 
RIBA4464Bristol Pension, 175-4 Street, Asmara


RIBA4465Garage (formerly City Sanitation Office), Massawa Road, Asmara

 
RIBA4466Ministry of Water Resources, Maryam Gmbi Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4467University of Asmara training centre, Post Office Square, Asmara


RIBA4468Shops and apartments, Selam Street / Akeleguzay Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4469Shops and apartments (formerly Palazzo Mazzetti), Harnet Avenue / Denkel Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4470Building on Mai Bela, Asmara


RIBA4471Enda Mariam Orthodox Cathedral, Arbate Asmara Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4472Catholic Cathedral and Harnet Avenue, Asmara

 
RIBA4473Catholic cathedral and Harnet Avenue, Asmara, by night with fireworks


RIBA4474Shops and apartments (formerly Palazzo Amoroso), Harnet Avenue / Mata Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4475Cinema Roma, Sematat Avenue / 171-4 Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4476Silicon Factory (formerly Agenzia Lancia), Tegadelti Street, Asmara


RIBA4477Shops and apartments, 176-9 Street / 176-2 Street, Asmara: the staircase

 
RIBA4478Capitol Cinema (formerly Cinema Augustus), Denden Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4479Ministry of Trade and Industry, Asmara


RIBA4480Shops and apartments in former Adua Square, Nafka Avenue / Keren Street, Asmara

 
RIBA4481Workshop and service station (formerly Fiat Tagliero service station), Mereb Street / Sematat Avenue, Asmara

 
RIBA4482Residence of the Italian Ambassador (formerly Viceroy's residence), Villa Quarter, Asmara


RIBA4483Staircase, Asmara

 
RIBA4484Catholic cathedral and Harnet Avenue, Asmara

 
RIBA4485Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: looking across the entrance hall towards the name indicator board


RIBA4486Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: the Bryanston Street elevation

 
RIBA4487Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: customers' lounge with public telephones and lifts

 
RIBA4488Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: detail of one of the spiral ramps


RIBA4489Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: the petrol station

 
RIBA4490Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: a typical floor

 
RIBA4491Cumberland Garage, Marble Arch, London: corner of a typical floor


RIBA4493Model of unexecuted project for the Department of Zoology, Oxford

 
RIBA4494Model of unexecuted project for the Department of Zoology, Oxford

 
RIBA4495Model of unexecuted project for the Department of Zoology, Oxford