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
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

 
RIBA4721Aline Barnsdall residence - Hollyhock House, Olive Hill, Hollywood, Los Angeles


RIBA4722Nathan G. Moore House, Forest Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois: detail of chimney

 
RIBA4727Roman road on Blackstone Edge, West Yorkshie

 
RIBA4730Secondary modern school, Hunstanton: the main block


RIBA473138 and 39 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London

 
RIBA4732Economist Building, 25 St James's Street, London

 
RIBA4733Waterlow Court, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London


RIBA4734Travellers' Club, Pall Mall, London: the Library which is broken into three parts by screens of paired columns

 
RIBA4735Photomontage of the proposed tower block for the Mansion House Square scheme, 1 Poultry, London

 
RIBA4736St John's, Horsleydown, Bermondsey, London: the interior showing bomb damage


RIBA4738Highpoint Two, North Hill, Highgate, London: close-up of the canopy of the main entrance

 
RIBA4741Union Assurance Company of Canton Limited building, corner of the Bund and Guangdong Road, Shanghai

 
RIBA4744Empire Pool, Wembley, London


RIBA4745Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey: the main entrance to the hospital block

 
RIBA4746Princess Elizabeth of York Hospital for Children, Banstead Wood, Surrey: general view of the administration block and the hospital block

 
RIBA4750St Matthias Diocesan Training College, Fishponds, Bristol: front elevation of the new teaching wing


RIBA4751Sugden House, Farm Field, Devereux Drive, Watford: the dining room

 
RIBA4752Hogalid Church (Hogalidskyrkan), Stockholm, seen from the west

 
RIBA4753Concert Hall (Konserthuset), Hortoget Square, Stockholm: the entrance facade


RIBA4754Concert Hall (Konserthuset), Hortoget Square, Stockholm: the entrance facade seen from across the square

 
RIBA4755BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London: speakers' rest room / dressing room

 
RIBA4756Whipsnade Zoo: plan of the Elephant House


RIBA4757Whipsnade Zoo: model of the Elephant House

 
RIBA4758Whipsnade Zoo: one of the shelters flanking the Elephant House

 
RIBA4759Whipsnade Zoo: one of the shelters flanking the Elephant House


RIBA4760Elephant House, Whipsnade Zoo

 
RIBA4761Elephant House, Whipsnade Zoo: one of the residents by the pool

 
RIBA4762Elephant House, Whipsnade Zoo: two residents taking to the pool


RIBA4763BOAC Terminal, J F Kennedy International Airport, New York

 
RIBA4764Cathedral Church of St Michael, Coventry: the Baptistery with stained glass windows by John Piper

 
RIBA4765Gorilla House under construction, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London