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
RIBA3453-59Royal Liver Building, Pier Head, Liverpool

 
RIBA3454-59Bus station for London Transport, Newbury Park, Redbridge, London

 
RIBA3455-59"Seco" temporary bungalow


RIBA3456-59Ideal House / National Radiator Building, Great Marlborough Street, London

 
RIBA3457-59Public toilet and florist, Westbourne Grove and Colville Road, London

 
RIBA3459-60Palais Garnier (Opera de Paris), Place de l'Opera, Paris


RIBA3460-60Piazza d'Italia, New Orleans

 
RIBA3463-60Expiatory Church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

 
RIBA3465-60All Saints, Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, London


RIBA3466-60Stave church from Gol, Norwegian Folk Museum, Oslo

 
RIBA3467-60Battersea 'A' Power Station, London: chimney floodlit

 
RIBA3468-609 Stock Orchard Street (the 'straw bale house'), Islington, London


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RIBA3470-60Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire

 
RIBA3472-61Villa Rotonda (Villa Almerico Capra), Vicenza


RIBA3474-61Torre Asinelli and Torre Garisenda, Bologna

 
RIBA3475-61Basilica of Maxentius (or Constantine), via dei Fori Imperiali, the Forum, Rome: the remains of the central nave covered by three groin vaults

 
RIBA3477-61Chartres Cathedral: nave flying buttresses


RIBA3478-61Cahrtres Cathedral seen from the south

 
RIBA3479-61Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle), Ypres, before destruction in First World War and subsequent reconstruction

 
RIBA3480-61Durham Cathedral: the nave and north aisle


RIBA3481-61Upper Ormonde Quay and O'Donovan Rossa Bridge, Dublin

 
RIBA3482-61Woolland's stand, Ideal Home Exhibition, Olympia, London: the kitchen display

 
RIBA3483-61New Social Block, Gillette Factory, Great West Road, London: the canteen


RIBA3484-61Forrt's Kitchen, Bath

 
RIBA3485-61Michelin Building, Fulham Road, London: the restaurant

 
RIBA3486-61John Nash


RIBA3488-61Primitive hut

 
RIBA3489-61Ospedale degli Innocenti (Foundling Hospital), Piazza SS Annunziata, Florence: the loggia

 
RIBA3490-61Oxford University Museum, Parks Road, Oxford


RIBA3491-61Temple of Neptune (or Hera II), Paestum

 
RIBA3492-61Palazzetto dello Sport, Rome, under construction

 
RIBA3493-61Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens: the west facade