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
RIBA4766Gorilla House under construction, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London

 
RIBA4767Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: plans and details

 
RIBA4768Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: section: axonometric details


RIBA4769Model of the Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London

 
RIBA4770Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: the winter cage with its revolving door open

 
RIBA4771Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: the winter cage with its revolving door closed


RIBA4772Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: the entrance porch showing the external wall divided into horizontal bands

 
RIBA4773Gorilla House, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: close-up of the entrance porch

 
RIBA4774Berthold Lubetkin and Margaret Church at The Stork Club, New York, during the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition 'Modern Architecture in England'


RIBA4775Lupton's Range, Eton College, Berkshire: close-up of the gatehouse tower from School Yard

 
RIBA4776Albert Memorial, Kensington Gore, London, looking up at the memorial from the figure group depicting Asia by J H Foley

 
RIBA4777Toy shop for Paul and Marjorie Abbatt Limited, 94 Wimpole Street, London


RIBA4778Passport photograph of Berthold Lubetkin

 
RIBA4779Berthold Lubetkin

 
RIBA4780Berthold Lubetkin


RIBA4782'This is tomorrow' exhibition, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London: Group 6 exhibit - close-up of Nigel Henderson's 'Head of Man'

 
RIBA4783Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the front entrance

 
RIBA4784Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: general view from the approach


RIBA4785Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the garden elevation

 
RIBA4786Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the entrance hall

 
RIBA4787Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford, looking across the hall to the staircase


RIBA4788Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: looking across the living room onto the balcony

 
RIBA4789Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the living room

 
RIBA4790Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the living room


RIBA4791Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the kitchen

 
RIBA4792Overshot, Hinskey Hill, Oxford: the kitchen

 
RIBA4796Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London: view from Waterloo Bridge looking east towards St Paul's Cathedral


RIBA4798Swiss Cottage Central Library, Hampstead, London

 
RIBA4799Swiss Cottage Swimming Baths and Central Library, Hampstead, London

 
RIBA4800Swiss Cottage Swimming Baths and Central Library, Hampstead, London


RIBA4801Model of the Hampstead Civic Centre, Swiss Cottage, London

 
RIBA4802William White

 
RIBA4805Royal National Theatre, South Bank, London: corner detail of the riverside terraces and balconies