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
RIBA4680Lincoln's Inn House, 42 Kingsway, London

RIBA4682"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: sketch annotated "Type of building for Expandospace Exhibition"

RIBA4683"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: sketch of room plan for Expandospace Exhibition

RIBA4684"Experiments in Living" exhibition, Maples store, London: over-bed cloud forms

RIBA4685Mews house designed for Ruth and Tom Kaufmann in Pavilion Road, Knightsbridge, London: view of the patio from above

RIBA4687Kitchen designed for Petticoat magazine: reproduction drawing of the mobile, folding "triptych" unit

RIBA4688Sketch of a living room

RIBA4690Drawing of a house with figure and cactus, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

RIBA4691Drawing of a kitchen with a wood oven, Aeolian Islands, Sicily

RIBA4692Neal Street East, Covent Garden, London: angled view of shop front along Neal Street

RIBA4695Crawley Town Hall and Civic Centre, West Sussex: ground floor corridor

RIBA4696Crawley Town Hall and Civic Centre, West Sussex, seen from the south-east

RIBA4697Oxford Road Station, Manchester: the entrance facade seen from the main approach

RIBA4698Clendinning residence, 3 Alwyne Road, Islington, London: the living room during the 'cloud seat' period with over-sized papier-mache tulip lamp designed by Ralph Adron

RIBA4699Alterations to a farm house on the Sussex Downs: the sitting room

RIBA4700House near Leatherhead, Surrey: the sitting room

RIBA4701House at Lakeside Drive, Esher, Surrey

RIBA4702Housing at Calverton End, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

RIBA4704Mondial House, International Telephone Exchange, Upper Thames Street, City of London

RIBA4705MARS Group Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London: screen showing a photographic medley of architectural examples from all over the world

RIBA4706MARS Group Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London: a view down a garden pergola

RIBA4707MARS Group Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London: one of ten 'Building means' display windows

RIBA4708MARS Group Exhibition, New Burlington Galleries, London: mural depicting the needs of leisure

RIBA4709Oare House Pavilion, Oare, near Pewsey, Wiltshire: the staircase

RIBA4711St Matthew's Anglican Church, Perry Beeches, Birmingham: the chancel

RIBA4712St Paul, Bow Common, London: the nave seen from the baptistery

RIBA471315-19 Murray Mews, Camden, London: the prinicpal living space of one of the houses seen at night from the garden

RIBA4714Charles and Ray Eames

RIBA4715Grimston Park, North Yorkshire: the Yellow Drawing Room

RIBA4717Odeon cinema, Sidwell Street, Exeter, Devon: the entrance foyer

RIBA4718Sign language system for the deaf and dumb

RIBA4719Altar of Ratchis, Duomo di San Martine, Cividale del Friuli: detail of the Lombard stone carved angels on the front panel

RIBA4720Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich