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
RIBA3926Design for the grotto, Oatlands Park, Surrey

 
RIBA3928Studios for Messrs. Sound City (Films) Ltd, Shepperton

 
RIBA3929Studios for Messrs. Sound City (Films) Ltd, Shepperton


RIBA3930Langham Hotel, Portland Place, London

 
RIBA3931Design for the Three per Cent Consols Office, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, City of London

 
RIBA3932Design for a monument


RIBA3937Design for stained glass windows depicting Saint Michael and Virtue for an unidentified 18th century church

 
RIBA3938Design for windows for the 'Willow Cathedral'

 
RIBA3939Design for the English School (later Bedford Modern School), Bedford


RIBA3940Design for Crom Castle (or Crum Castle), County Fermanagh: perspective of the facade overlooking the terrace and lake

 
RIBA3941Design for Goodrich Court, Herefordshire: perspective

 
RIBA3942Design for a conservatory, Beckford House, Southampton


RIBA3943Frei Otto

 
RIBA3944West German Pavilion, Expo '67, Montreal, by night

 
RIBA3945Design for an organ case, Burton-upon-Trent


RIBA3948Drawings from a sketchbook showing the gatehouse of Cockermouth Castle, Cumbria, and part-plan of Norris Castle, East Cowes, Isle of White

 
RIBA3949Design for a cottage ornee

 
RIBA3950Design for the interior decoration of a house


RIBA3951Design for the Indian Bridge at Sezincote, Moreton-in-Marsh

 
RIBA3953Design for an octagonal cottage

 
RIBA3955Hungerford Market, London: perpective view of the galleries, showing a flower-seller


RIBA3957Design for the west elevation of a cathedral

 
RIBA3960Design for Rookwood Cemetery Railway Station, Sydney, Australia

 
RIBA3962Design for a country villa


RIBA3963Design for Stanley Hall, Shropshire

 
RIBA3965Design for a tower for Selfridge's department store, Oxford Street, London

 
RIBA3966Design for the saloon ceiling, Longleat House, Wiltshire, for the Marquis of Bath


RIBA3970Interior of an Egyptian temple

 
RIBA3972Designs for the redecoration of the chapel and addition of an adjoining monument room, Wynyard Park, County Durham, for the 6th Marquis of Londonderry: view of the chapel looking south-east

 
RIBA3973Design for Mason's Yard Electricity Generating Station, Duke Street, London for St. James & Pall Mall Electric Lighting Company


RIBA3974Persective of the chimney at Grove Road Power Station, Lodge Road, St John's Wood, London for the Central Electricity Supply Company

 
RIBA3975Blickling Hall, Norfolk: design for a fireplace in the library

 
RIBA3976View through an archway, Venice


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