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.

108601 items
RIBA3574-66Eigen Haard housing, Hembrugstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3575-66Model of the terminal building known as 'The Beehive', Gatwick Airport

 
RIBA3576-66Centrepoint, 101 New Oxford Street, London, seen from St Giles High Street


RIBA3577-66Post office and Eigen Haard housing, Zaanstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3578-66Eigen Haard housing, Spaarndammerplantsoen, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3579-66De Dageraad housing, Henriette Ronnerplein, Amsterdam


RIBA3580-66De Dageraad housing, Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3581-67De Dageraad housing, Therese Schwartzeplein, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3582-67De Dageraad housing, Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3583-67De Dageraad housing, Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3584-67De Dageraad housing, Therese Schwartzeplein, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3585-67De Dageraad housing, Burgemeester Tellegenstraat/P. L. Takstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3586-67De Dageraad housing, Burgemeester Tellegenstraat / Pieter Lodewijk Takstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3587-67Headquarters for the Municipal Tramway Company (Gemeentetram), Stadhouderskade, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3588-67Headquarters for the Municipal Tramway Company (Gemeentetram), Stadhouderskade, Amsterdam


RIBA3589-67Headquarters for the Municipal Tramway Company (Gemeentetram), Stadhouderskade, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3590-67Headquarters for the Municipal Tramway Company (Gemeentetram), Stadhouderskade, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3591-67De Samenwerking housing, J. M. Coenenstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3592-67De Samenwerking housing, J. M. Coenenstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3593-67De Samenwerking housing, J. M. Coenenstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3594-67De Samenwerking housing, J. M. Coenenstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3595-68De Samenwerking housing, J. M. Coenenstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3596-68Villa Meerlhuis, Park Meerwijk, Bergen

 
RIBA3597-68Post office and Eigen Haard housing, Zaanstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3598-68Eigen Haard housing, Zaanstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3599-68Eigen Haard housing, Zaanstraat, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3600-68Eigen Haard housing, Zaanstraat, Amsterdam


RIBA3601-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, in the background with the Montelbaanstoren on the left, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3602-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3603-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, Amsterdam


RIBA3604-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3605-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, Amsterdam

 
RIBA3606-68New Metropolis, Oosterdok, Amsterdam