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
RIBA4534Union Buildings, Pretoria: view of the proposed war memorial

 
RIBA4535Union Buildings, Pretoria: suggested site plan

 
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