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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108584 items
RIBA3845Pompidou Centre (Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou), Paris

 
RIBA3846W D and H O Wills tobacco factory, Hartcliffe, Bristol

 
RIBA3847Winter House, 81 Swain's Lane, Highgate, London


RIBA3848Richard J Daley Center, formerly the Civic Center, Chicago: steel column oxydidizing

 
RIBA3849Richard J Daley Center, formerly the Civic Center, Chicago: steel column oxydidizing

 
RIBA3850Castle Howard, North Yorkshire: the south front seen from the south-east


RIBA3851German Pavilion, Barcelona

 
RIBA3852Dartmoor

 
RIBA3853Housing nearing completion at the Aylesbury Estate, Walworth, Southwark, London


RIBA3854W D and H O Wills tobacco factory, Hartcliffe, Bristol: head office

 
RIBA3855Campanile of San Marco, Venice

 
RIBA3857Duomo and campanile (Leaning Tower), Campo dei Miracoli, Pisa, seen from the south-west


RIBA3861San Marco and Campanile, Venice

 
RIBA3862Tribune Tower, Chicago

 
RIBA3863Empire State Building, 350 5th Avenue, New York


RIBA3865Pioneer Health Centre, St Mary's Road, Peckham, London: row of shower units that lead to the swimming pool

 
RIBA3867Ralph Erskine

 
RIBA3868Borgafjall Ski Hotel: multi-level public spaces


RIBA3870Clare Hall, Herschel Road, Cambridge: a residential courtyard

 
RIBA3871John Donat

 
RIBA3872Wall of Audley End Park, Saffron Walden, Essex


RIBA3873Sir Giles Gilbert Scott

 
RIBA3874Ulm Cathedral

 
RIBA3875Dome of the Rock,Temple Mount, Jerusalem


RIBA3876Queen's House, Greenwich, London: the north front

 
RIBA3877Design for the elevation of a wall with Zenana in the Arab Hall, Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, London

 
RIBA3878Design for a pleasure beach


RIBA3879Hammersmith Town Hall, Cromwell Road extension, London

 
RIBA3880Design for a stage set or a vast hall with a throne

 
RIBA3881Preliminary design for a villa near Hampton Court Palace, London


RIBA3883Design for a double chaise-longue

 
RIBA3884Design for a garden: plan I

 
RIBA3885Competition designs for decorations for the Coronation of King George VI, Bond Street, London: perspective of view at night showing lighting from below


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