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
RIBA4634Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Clifton, Bristol: the entrance approach

 
RIBA4635Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Clifton, Bristol: the sanctuary

 
RIBA4636Housing at Grahame Park, Colindale, London: close-up of the largest landscaped space of the scheme at the extreme south-west


RIBA4637RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London

 
RIBA4638RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London

 
RIBA4639RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London


RIBA4640RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London: the study rooms

 
RIBA4641RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London: the study rooms

 
RIBA4642RIBA Architecture Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London: the study rooms


RIBA4644Plan for 'London at Work'

 
RIBA4649Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2005, Hyde Park, London

 
RIBA4650Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2005, Hyde Park, London


RIBA4651Economist Building, 25 St James's Street, London: 'The man on the Economist Plaza'

 
RIBA4652Economist Building, 25 St James's Street, London: an office

 
RIBA4653Sugden House, Farm Field, Devereux Drive, Watford


RIBA4654House at 66 Frognal, Hampstead, London: the master bedroom

 
RIBA4655Attic flat in Belfast: dining corner

 
RIBA4657Attic flat in Belfast: the sitting area


RIBA4658Attic flat in Belfast: the sitting area

 
RIBA4659Clendinning residence, 3 Alwyne Road, Islington, London: the living room

 
RIBA4663Pair of plywood chairs designed for Liberty


RIBA4664Range of plywood furniture with foam cushions designed for Liberty and photographed in a room setting for the Observer Colour Supplement

 
RIBA4665Range of plywood furniture with foam cushions designed for Liberty and photographed in a room setting for the Observer Colour Supplement

 
RIBA4666Race Maxima 1966 Collection: Capella chair, Spica settee and the Star occasional table


RIBA4667Race Maxima 1966 Collection: easy chair in nubbly tweed

 
RIBA4668Race Maxima 1966 collection: Spica rosewood easy chair, two-seater sofa and occasional table

 
RIBA4669Race Maxima 1966 collection: sheet of six contact prints of low-backed armchair


RIBA4670Race Maxima 1967 collection: occasional tables

 
RIBA4671Knoll International NY: 5 sausage chair and occasional table

 
RIBA4672Race Maxima 1966 Collection: Capella chair


RIBA4673Aerofoam 1968 chair

 
RIBA4674Aerofoam 1968 chair

 
RIBA46751969 Furniture design for Clendinning's house, 3 Alwyne Road, Islington, London: a sofa configuration