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
RIBA4808Pier Luigi Nervi at the drawing board

 
RIBA4809Falmer House, University of Sussex, Falmer: the entrance approach

 
RIBA4813Laboratories and process building for CIBA (ARL) Limited, Duxford, Cambridgeshire: the Araldite plant


RIBA4814Penguin Pool, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London

 
RIBA4815Fairlawn Primary School, Lewisham, London: site plan

 
RIBA4816Old Vic Theatre Annex (now Royal National Theatre Studio), The Cut, Lambeth, London


RIBA4817Old Vic Theatre Annex (now Royal National Theatre Studio), The Cut, Lambeth, London

 
RIBA4818Lady Chapel, Gloucester Cathedral: close-up of the monument to Elizabeth Williams

 
RIBA4819Edward Playne


RIBA4823Finsbury Health Centre, Pine Street, Finsbury, London: elevated general view

 
RIBA4824St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London: the entrance hall

 
RIBA4825St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London: perspective showing Elizabeth Street elevation


RIBA4826St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London

 
RIBA4827St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London

 
RIBA4828St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London: close-up of the main entrance


RIBA4829Chapel of the Peace of God, St Michael's House, Chester Square, London

 
RIBA4830St Michael's Parish House, Chester Square, London: the roof garden

 
RIBA4831German Pavilion, Barcelona


RIBA4832German Pavilion, Barcelona: courtyard with sculpture 'Alba' by Georg Kolbe

 
RIBA4833German Pavilion, Barcelona: detail of materials

 
RIBA4834German Pavilion, Barcelona


RIBA4835German Pavilion, Barcelona: detail of marble walls

 
RIBA4836AEG turbine factory, Berlin: detail of the side elevation

 
RIBA4837AEG turbine factory, Berlin: detail of the side elevation


RIBA4838AEG turbine factory, Berlin

 
RIBA4839AEG turbine factory, Berlin: part of the side elevation

 
RIBA4840AEG turbine factory, Berlin: detail of steel trusses


RIBA4841AEG turbine factory, Berlin

 
RIBA4842Casa Mila (La Pedrera), 92 Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona: roofscape

 
RIBA4843Casa Mila (La Pedrera), 92 Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona: detail of balconies


RIBA4844Casa Mila (La Pedrera), 92 Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona: detail of windows

 
RIBA4845Casa Mila (La Pedrera), 92 Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona: entrance hall

 
RIBA4846Alhambra, Granada: dome of the octangonal Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of the Two Sisters)