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
RIBA3304-51The Paddox, Squitchey Lane, Oxford, under construction

RIBA3305-51The Paddox, Squitchey Lane, Oxford, under construction

RIBA3306-513-19 Meadow Way Green, Letchworth Garden City

RIBA3307-51Waterlow Court, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London

RIBA3308-51New Victoria Cinema, Wilton Road, London: the auditorium seen from rear of stalls right

RIBA3309-51Dreamland, Margate, Kent

RIBA3311-51Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon: the pay-box faced with small plates of stainless steel in the entrance foyer

RIBA3312-51Neon ceiling light, Municipal Theatre foyer, Napier

RIBA3313-51Usherettes at the opening of the Odeon cinema, Leicester Square, London

RIBA3317-51New headquarters of the London Electric Railway Company (later London Underground), 55 Broadway, Westminster, London: perspective view of the entrance front

RIBA3321-52Johnson Wax / S C Johnson and Son Administration Building, Racine, Wisconsin

RIBA3323-52Holly Mount, Amersham Road, Knotty Green, Buckinghamshire: the drawing room

RIBA3325-52House and guesthouse for Richard Rogers's parents, 22 Parkside, Wimbledon, London

RIBA3326-52Magasins du Bon Marche, 22 rue de Sevres, Paris

RIBA3327-52Magasins du Bon Marche, 22 rue de Sevres, Paris

RIBA3328-52Hardwick House, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk: wrought iron gateway

RIBA3329-52Belvedere Court, Lyttelton Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London

RIBA3330-52Belvedere Court, Lyttelton Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London

RIBA3331-52Mitcham fair, London

RIBA3332-52Wolseley House (later Barclays Bank), Piccadilly, London

RIBA3333-52Sir Philip Powell

RIBA3334-52Hill Close, Studland Bay, Swanage, Dorset: the lodge and motor-house

RIBA3337-52Finsbury Health Centre, Pine Street, Finsbury, London: the disinfecting station

RIBA3338-52Finsbury Health Centre, Pine Street, Finsbury, London: the lecture room with glass brick window wall

RIBA3339-52Edwin Smith

RIBA3340-52Highpoint One, North Hill, Highgate, London: the sitting-room area in Type A flat belonging to Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990)

RIBA3341-52Highpoint One, North Hill, Highgate, London: the bathroom

RIBA3342-52Terraced houses set around grass and trees, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

RIBA3344-52Paddington Station, London: the north train shed

RIBA3345-53Ernest Newton

RIBA3346-53Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel

RIBA3349-53Cedric Price

RIBA3350-53Cedric Price