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
RIBA3681-73Chiesa Nuova (Santa Maria in Vallicella), Rome: facade

 
RIBA3682-73The Wall, Tokyo

 
RIBA3683-73Sea and Ships Pavilion, Festival of Britain, South Bank, London


RIBA3684-73Dan Kiley

 
RIBA3685-73Finsbury Avenue Square, Broadgate, City of London

 
RIBA3686-73Villa Pisani (La Nazionale), Stra: the stables


RIBA3687-73Eden Project, Bodelva, Cornwall

 
RIBA3688-73Vine Cottage, Blaise Hamlet, Henbury

 
RIBA3689-73Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions), Alhambra, Granada


RIBA3690-73Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions), Alhambra, Granada: one of the two pavilions

 
RIBA3691-73De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea: the auditorium from the stage showing side balcony

 
RIBA3692-7340 Geary Road, Dollis Hill, London


RIBA3694-73British Museum, Bloomsbury, London: Reading Room

 
RIBA3695-73B3 building, Stockley Park, Hillingdon, London

 
RIBA3696-73Head office for insurance firm Willis Faber and Dumas Limited, Ipswich, Suffolk


RIBA3697-74Head office for insurance firm Willis Faber and Dumas Limited, Ipswich, Suffolk

 
RIBA3698-74Old Royal Naval College (Royal Naval Hospital), Greenwich, London: the riverside facade

 
RIBA3699-74St Mary's Church, Woolpit, Suffolk: close-up of the hammer-beam roof


RIBA3700-74Pattenden Manor, Goudhurst, Kent

 
RIBA3701-74Bluewater shopping centre, Dartford, Kent

 
RIBA3702-74Stansted Airport, Essex


RIBA3703-74Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London: the twin towers marking the main entrance

 
RIBA3704-74Kenwood House, Hampstead, London, seen from across Hampstead Heath

 
RIBA3705-74Queen's House, Greenwich, London, seen from Observatory Hill


RIBA3708-74George Street, Bath

 
RIBA3709-74Eaton Square, Belgravia, London

 
RIBA3710-74Park Crescent, Regent's Park, London, seen from the west


RIBA3711-74Housing, 103-123 St Marks Road, London

 
RIBA3712-74St Paul's, Covent Garden, London: the east facade on Covent Garden

 
RIBA3714-74The Rosslyn Arms, Hampstead, London


RIBA3715-74Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park, London: central section