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
RIBA4498Pirelli advertising along the Milan-Turin autostrada

RIBA4499British Library, 96 Euston Road, St Pancras, London: glimpse through the main portico entrance into the main courtyard of the sculpture depicting Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi

RIBA4500Holloway Prison, London: C Wing, 'the black cathedral'

RIBA4501Parliament Hill Lido, Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead, London: the main entrance on Gordon House Road

RIBA4502Ffynone, Dyfed, Pembrokeshire: view of the reconstruction

RIBA4503Ffynone, Dyfed, Pembrokeshire: view of the reconstruction

RIBA4504Ffynone, Dyfed, Pembrokeshire: view of the reconstruction

RIBA4505Fiat Lingotto Motor Factory, Turin

RIBA4506Fiat Lingotto Motor Factory, Turin: view of the track for testing finished cars on the roof of the factory

RIBA4507Southrow, Blackheath, London: the main entrance to the flats seen from the courtyard

RIBA4508The Hall, Blackheath, London: Hall 2

RIBA4510Southrow, Blackheath, London: the living room of one of the maisonettes

RIBA4511Southrow, Blackheath, London: bathroom

RIBA4512The Hamlet, Corbishley Road, Bognor Regis

RIBA4514Village Centre, New Ash Green, Kent

RIBA4515Cedar Chase, Rectory, Road, Taplow, Buckinghamshire

RIBA4516Village Centre, New Ash Green, Kent

RIBA4517The Hamlet, Corbishley Road, Bognor Regis

RIBA4518Fieldend, Teddington, London

RIBA4519Over Minnis, Zone 1, New Ash Green, Kent

RIBA4520Lambardes, New Ash Green, Kent

RIBA4521Main Library, George Square, University of Edinburgh

RIBA4522University post-graduate library, Edinburgh: the enquiry desk

RIBA4523Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey: the wards with French windows opening out onto the sun deck

RIBA4524Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey: perspective view of the design for the new hospital block

RIBA4525Shaw House, Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey

RIBA4526Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey: frontispiece of the publicity brochure showing Shaw House surrounded by woodland

RIBA4530Michael Wilford

RIBA4531Hallfield Primary School, Bishop's Bridge Road, Paddington, London

RIBA4532Church of the Holy Cross, Akhtamar Island, Lake Van

RIBA4533Royal Palace, Caserta: view of the formal gardens from the great cascade

RIBA4534Union Buildings, Pretoria: view of the proposed war memorial

RIBA4535Union Buildings, Pretoria: suggested site plan