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
RIBA4536Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London: the main entrance

 
RIBA4537Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London: close-up of the bronze entrance doors by James Woodford

 
RIBA4538Harlow town centre, Essex


RIBA4539Parkleys, Ham Common, Richmond upon Thames, London

 
RIBA4540Rayners Road, Putney, London

 
RIBA4541Cedar Chase, Rectory, Road, Taplow, Buckinghamshire


RIBA4542Fieldend, Teddington, London

 
RIBA4543Corner Green, Pond Road, Blackheath, London

 
RIBA4544The Plantation, Morden Road, Blackheath, London


RIBA4545The Lane, Blackheath Park, Blackheath, London

 
RIBA4546Easton Neston, Northamptonshire: the west front

 
RIBA4547Six Pillars, Crescent Wood Road, Sydenham, London: the garden front


RIBA4548Hallgate, Blackheath, London

 
RIBA4549Southrow, Blackheath, London: interior of a flat with the entrance to the kitchen seen to the left

 
RIBA4550Hallgate, Blackheath, London


RIBA4551Punch Croft, New Ash Green, Kent

 
RIBA4552Village Centre, New Ash Green, Kent

 
RIBA4553Show house, New Ash Green, Kent: the kitchen and the dining room


RIBA4554Park Gate, Somerhill Road, Hove

 
RIBA4555Over Minnis, Zone 1, New Ash Green, Kent

 
RIBA4556B-type housing, New Ash Green, Kent, under construction


RIBA4561Derby Cathedral: the nave

 
RIBA4562Canterbury Cathedral: Bell Harry Tower

 
RIBA4563Science Library, University of Aberdeen: general view with the old chemistry building in background


RIBA4564Science Library, University of Aberdeen: the west front

 
RIBA4565Science Library, University of Aberdeen: the west front

 
RIBA4566Science Library, University of Aberdeen: the north front


RIBA4567Science Library, University of Aberdeen: lateral view showing the main entrance

 
RIBA4568Science Library, University of Aberdeen: the staircase to the mezzanine in the west reading room

 
RIBA4569Science Library, University of Aberdeen: a lateral view of the building with the research wing in the foreground


RIBA4570Science Library, University of Aberdeen: the reading room

 
RIBA4571Science Library, University of Aberdeen

 
RIBA4572Science Library, University of Aberdeen