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
RIBA3977Cathedral of Notre Dame, Reims: south portal of west front

 
RIBA3978Amphitheatre at Pola (Pula): view from the west

 
RIBA3979Competition design for the Houses of Parliament, Palace of Westminster, London, showing Westminster Hall on the left


RIBA3980Design for the Library and Scientific Institution, Wellington Street, Islington, London

 
RIBA3981Designs for Moreby Hall, North Yorkshire, for Henry Preston, Esq.: perpsective of entrance front

 
RIBA3982Design for the conservatory, Mamhead Park, Mamhead, Devon


RIBA3983Southwark Bridge, London: detail of pier and spandrels from the south-west

 
RIBA3984Design for a room in the Jacobean style, Poles, near Thundridge, Hertfordshire

 
RIBA3985Design for the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, London: detail of gable to wings, front elevation


RIBA3986Contract design for the principal tower of the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, London

 
RIBA3987Design for the Imperial Institute, South Kensington, London: detail of centre block of front elevation

 
RIBA3989Preliminary design for Religious Studio, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London


RIBA3990Design for a fountain in the gardens at Buckingham Palace, London

 
RIBA3992Design for the completion of the hall at Highclere Castle, Hampshire

 
RIBA3993Designs for the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London: two half-plans and perspectival elevation of principal doorway


RIBA3994Design for Clobb Copse, Buckler's Hard, Beaulieu, Hampshire

 
RIBA3995Designs for the Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London: perspective of gallery with skeletons

 
RIBA3996Design for a gardener's cottage at Laverstoke House, Hampshire, for Melville Porter, MP: perspective


RIBA3997Design for the Great Hall, Euston Station, London

 
RIBA3999Design for a desk for Ernest Debenham: front and side elevations of the construction and marquetry

 
RIBA4000Preliminary design for the interior of RMS Orion


RIBA4001Design for a lounge, RMS Orion

 
RIBA4002Design for the interior of RMS Orion: detail of a lounge

 
RIBA4003Design for Great Portland Street Underground Station for the Metropolitan Railway, London


RIBA4004Unexecuted design for the interior of the News Theatre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

 
RIBA40076 Temple Gardens, Moor Park, Hertfordshire

 
RIBA40086 Temple Gardens, Moor Park, Hertfordshire: the garden front


RIBA40096 Temple Gardens (left), Moor Park, Hertfordshire, seen from golf course

 
RIBA40106 Temple Gardens, Moor Park, Hertfordshire: the living room

 
RIBA4011Church of St Mary, Studley Royal, North Yorkshire: the ornately decorated vaulted chancel and choir


RIBA4013Project for a villa

 
RIBA4016Drawing of the Sydney Opera House under construction

 
RIBA4017Design for the British Pavilion, Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, Paris 1937


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