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
RIBA3641-71Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire

 
RIBA3642-71Fonthill House ('Fonthill Splendens'), Wiltshire

 
RIBA3643-71Decimus Burton


RIBA3644-71London Eye, South Bank, London, at dusk

 
RIBA3645-71El Camino del Canyon, converted adobe dwelling, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 
RIBA3646-71Las Vegas Country Club, 3000 Joe Brown Drive, Las Vegas


RIBA3647-71Roof, Hilton Country Club, Las Vegas

 
RIBA3648-71Kotas House, 123 Laidley Street, San Francisco

 
RIBA3649-71San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco


RIBA3650-71Advent Software, 301 Brannan Street, San Francisco

 
RIBA3651-71Casa Batllo, 43 Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona: balcony detail

 
RIBA3653-72Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow


RIBA3654-72Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington, London: Aston Webb wing along Cromwell Road

 
RIBA3655-72Viceroy's House, New Delhi: the main entrance

 
RIBA3658-72Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, Rome


RIBA3661-72Erechtheion, Acropolis, Athens: Porch of the Caryatids

 
RIBA3662-72St Paul's Cathedral, City of London, seen from the south-east

 
RIBA3663-72St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, seen from the south-west


RIBA3664-72Temple of Hephaestus (Theseion), Athens

 
RIBA3665-72Coal Exchange, Lower Thames Street, City of London

 
RIBA3666-72Westminster Abbey, London: the junction of the choir and the north transept vaults


RIBA3668-72Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire

 
RIBA3669-72Villa Pisani (La Nazionale), Stra: the garden front

 
RIBA3670-72Tempietto in the courtyard of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome


RIBA3671-72Highclere Castle, Hampshire

 
RIBA3672-72Sir Terry Farrell

 
RIBA3674-72St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London


RIBA3675-72Arch of Constantine, Rome

 
RIBA3676-72Francis Apartments, Chicago

 
RIBA3677-72Castle Howard, North Yorkshire: the south front


RIBA3678-72Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich

 
RIBA3679-72Schloss Neuschwanstein, Bavaria

 
RIBA3680-73Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London, seen from the south-west