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.

109696 items
RIBA137771St James Icklingham, Suffolk: detail of gargoyle rainwater heads

 
RIBA137772St James Icklingham, Suffolk, seen from the churchyard

 
RIBA138101Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire


RIBA138102Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire

 
RIBA138103Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire: detail of windows

 
RIBA138104Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire


RIBA138105Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire: detail of window

 
RIBA138106Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire: the entrance porch

 
RIBA138107Holy Trinity, Bottisham, Cambridgeshire: detail of windows


RIBA138121All Saints Passage, Cambridge

 
RIBA138122All Saints Passage, Cambridge

 
RIBA138123All Saints Passage, Cambridge


RIBA138133Gate of Honour, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, seen from Senate House Passage

 
RIBA138134Gate of Honour, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: detail of the upper storey, seen from Senate House Passage

 
RIBA138135Cockerell Building, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: detail of stonework, seen from Senate House Passage


RIBA138136Waterhouse Building, Tree Court, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, seen from Trinity Street

 
RIBA138137Waterhouse Building, Tree Court, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, seen from Trinity Street

 
RIBA138138Waterhouse Building, Tree Court, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, seen from Senate House Passage


RIBA138139Senate House Passage, Cambridge: looking east with the Gate of Honour of Gonville and Caius College in the foreground and the Waterhouse Building beyond and the Senate House on the right

 
RIBA138140Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge: the Gate of Honour seen from Senate House Passage

 
RIBA138141Waterhouse Buidling, Tree Court, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, seen from Senate House Passage


RIBA138142King's College Chapel, Cambridge

 
RIBA138143King's College Chapel, Cambridge

 
RIBA138144King's College Chapel, Cambridge


RIBA138145King's College Chapel and the Gibbs' Building, Cambridge, seen from the Backs

 
RIBA138146King's College Chapel, Cambridge: the west front

 
RIBA138147King's College Chapel, Cambridge: the west front


RIBA138148King's College Chapel, Cambridge, seen from King's Parade

 
RIBA138149King's College Chapel, Cambridge, seen from King's Parade

 
RIBA138175Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: detail of a sign for Peck's pharmacy on Trumpington Street, looking towards the entrance of the museum


RIBA138176Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: detail of the columns surrounding the entrance portico

 
RIBA138177Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: detail of the pediment above the entrance portico

 
RIBA138178Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: detail of the Corinthian captitals and columns surrounding the entrance portico