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
RIBA3352-53Taj Mahal, Agra, seen from the south

RIBA3353-53Taj Mahal, Agra: spandrel detail

RIBA3354-53Wayang Coffee Lounge, 207 Earl's Court Road, London, by night

RIBA3355-53Egg and Bacon Restaurant for J. Lyons and Company, Oxford Street, London

RIBA3356-53Egg and Bacon Restaurant for J. Lyons and Company, Oxford Street, London

RIBA3357-53Kardomah Cafe, Market Street, Manchester

RIBA3358-53Penguin Pool, London Zoo, Regent's Park, London: early sketches

RIBA3359-53Lovell Health House, Los Angeles, California

RIBA3360-53Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut

RIBA3361-53Hermann Lange House, Krefeld

RIBA3362-53Glyn Mills' Bank, Lombard Street, London, under construction

RIBA3363-53Glyn Mills' Bank, Lombard Street, London, under construction

RIBA3364-53Glyn Mills' Bank, Lombard Street, London: steel framework under construction

RIBA3365-53Glyn Mills' Bank, Lombard Street, London: steel framework under construction

RIBA3366-53Four-storey detached houses, New Brighton, Wirral, Cheshire: front elevation (east side)

RIBA3367-53Four-storey detached houses, New Brighton, Wirral, Cheshire: garden elevation (west side)

RIBA3368-53Four-storey detached houses, New Brighton, Wirral, Cheshire: dining room

RIBA3369-53Four-storey detached houses, New Brighton, Wirral, Cheshire: sitting room

RIBA3370-53War Memorial, Euston, London: dedication ceremony in presence of Earl Haig

RIBA3371-53War Memorial, Euston, London: four maquettes of soldiers to stand at the foot of the column

RIBA3372-54Great Hall, Euston Station, London: interior with R. Wynn Owen and colleague reading notes in the middle distance

RIBA3373-54Harold Ainsworth Peto

RIBA3374-54History Faculty, West Road, Cambridge: the south elevation showing the stepped pyramidal glass roof over the Reading Room

RIBA3375-54Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence: west facade seen from the south-west

RIBA3376-54Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena: colonnade

RIBA3377-54Louvre, Paris: the Pyramid

RIBA3378-54Prentice Women's Hospital and Maternity Center and the Northwestern Institute of Psychiatry, Chicago: detail of tower

RIBA3379-54TWA Terminal, John F Kennedy International Airport, New York: roof detail

RIBA3380-54Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut

RIBA3381-54Pasarela de Campo Volantin footbridge, Bilbao, Spain

RIBA3382-54State Library, Berlin: lighting

RIBA3383-54J Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles: the entrance

RIBA3384-54Sony Center, Potsdamer Platz, Berlin: the covered plaza looking up