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
RIBA3886Design for the interior of St George's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, London

 
RIBA3887Design for the principal facade of the Bathing Pavilion, Hotel de Brancas, Paris

 
RIBA3888Design for a stage set showing a hall in a Baroque palace with superimposed colonnades


RIBA3889Saint Mark's Square, Venice

 
RIBA3890Designs for Corehouse, Lanarkshire: interior perspective of the grand staircase

 
RIBA3893Design for the Pagoda, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London


RIBA3894Elevation of one wall of Madame Recamier's bathroom, Hotel Recamier, Paris

 
RIBA3895Elevation of one wall of Madame Recamier's bedroom, Hotel Recamier, Paris

 
RIBA3896Design for an Egyptian style room


RIBA3897Design for St David's (Ramshorn) Kirk, 98 Ingram Street, Glasgow

 
RIBA3898Unexecuted competition designs for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: perspective of the principal front (design A for a Classical building using a Corinthian order)

 
RIBA3899Unexecuted competition designs for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: perspective of the front elevation (design B for a building in a Decorated Gothic style)


RIBA3900Competition design for the Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London: view of the facade from the River Thames

 
RIBA3901Unexecuted competition design for the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

 
RIBA3902Design for a monument to Richard Gwillym


RIBA3904Designs for alterations and additions to existing house, Lambton Hall, County Durham: interior perspective of the dining room

 
RIBA3905Views of Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire: interior view of the staircase hall

 
RIBA3906Views of Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire: perspective from the south-east


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RIBA3909Design for Barrells House, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire


RIBA3910Alternative designs for the Mausoleum, Blickling Hall, Blickling, in memory of the 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire: perspective from the north-west

 
RIBA3911Design for the drawing room, Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutland

 
RIBA3912Design for the ceiling of the drawing room, Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutland


RIBA3913Design for book room ceiling, Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutland

 
RIBA3914Design for the book room, Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutland

 
RIBA3915Designs for the Church of St James, Great Packington, Warwickshire, for the 4th Earl of Aylesford: plan, west elevation and section of east end showing altar


RIBA3918Edward Hodges Baily completing the statue of Nelson for Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London, in his studio

 
RIBA3919Designs for the interior decoration of Montagu House, 22 Portman Square, Westminster, London, for Mrs Elizabeth Montagu: plan for the carpet of the Great Drawing Room

 
RIBA3920Designs for gardener's house and hot houses, Lambton Hall, County Durham: elevation of the south front of the hothouses


RIBA3922Design for the Great Drawing Room in Montagu House, 22 Portland Square, London

 
RIBA3923Design for a drawing room

 
RIBA3924Design for Leeds Grammar School


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