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.

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108594 items
RIBA3804Hall of Prayers for a Good Harvest, Temple of Heaven, Beijing

 
RIBA3806Hornsey Town Hall, Crouch End, London

 
RIBA3807Casa del Fascio, Piazza del Popolo, Como


RIBA3808San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

 
RIBA3810Churchill Gardens Estate, Pimlico, London: children's playground

 
RIBA3811Churchill Gardens Estate, Pimlico, London: Chaucer House and the heat-accumulator seen from across the Thames


RIBA3812Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

 
RIBA3813Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte: the south front with parterres

 
RIBA3814Atomium, 1958 World's Fair, Brussels


RIBA3815Atomium, 1958 World's Fair, Brussels

 
RIBA3816Ruins of St Andrew, Covehithe, Suffolk

 
RIBA3817Columbia printing press at the Southwold Press


RIBA3818Gloucester Cathedral: the triforium and arcade of the nave seen from the chancel

 
RIBA3819Clandon Park, West Clandon, Surrey: the garden front

 
RIBA3821St Paul's Cathedral, City of London, seen from a nearby bombsite


RIBA3823Study with desk, chair, fitted bookcases and curtains, Berlin

 
RIBA3824Municipal offices, Earl Street, Coventry

 
RIBA3825Bodiam Castle, East Sussex


RIBA3826Victoria Assize Courts, Birmingham

 
RIBA3827Victoria Assize Courts, Birmingham

 
RIBA3828Boots head office (the D90 West building), Beeston, Nottinghamshire


RIBA3829Shopping centre, Pepys Estate, Deptford, London

 
RIBA3830Children's playground, Pepys Estate, Deptford, London

 
RIBA3832Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire: the nave of the church


RIBA3833Head office for insurance firm Willis Faber and Dumas Limited, Ipswich, Suffolk

 
RIBA3834Royal English Opera House, now the Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus, London

 
RIBA3835City Bank, 45-47 Ludgate Hill, City of London


RIBA3838Model of the final revised design for the National Gallery Extension, Hampton site, Trafalgar Square, London

 
RIBA3839Model of the final revised design for the National Gallery Extension, Hampton site, Trafalgar Square, London

 
RIBA3840View of Potsdam


RIBA3841Lincoln Cathedral: the Angel Choir

 
RIBA3843St Paul's Cathedral, City of London, seen from the steeple of St Martin Ludgate

 
RIBA3844Selfridges department store, Bull Ring, Birmingham: the store juxtaposed with the tower of St Martin's Church


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