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.

108601 items
RIBA4019Design for the Imperial Monumental Halls and Tower, Westminster, London: viewed looking south-west

 
RIBA4021Joldwynds, Holmbury St Mary, Surrey: the entrance front

 
RIBA4022Design for Frinton Park Estate, Frinton-on-Sea, Essex


RIBA4023Design for an underground railway and bus station for London Transport, Newbury Park, Redbridge, London

 
RIBA4024Design for the British Pavilion, Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, Paris 1937

 
RIBA4025Design for a lounge, RMS Orion


RIBA4027Design for a Polyfoto studio

 
RIBA4028Designs for the interior decoration of 1 Grosvenor Crescent, London, for Sir Wilfrid Lawson M.P.: alternative elevation of the staircase well showing decoration

 
RIBA4030Design for the interior decoration of a cinema auditorium, probably in Newcastle-upon-Tyne


RIBA4031Design for two stained glass windows of flowers and Arabic characters for Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, London

 
RIBA4032Design for the elevation of a wall of the picture gallery, Leighton House, 12 Holland Park Road, London

 
RIBA4033Design for the interior decoration of the Chapel of St Joseph, Oratory of St Philip Neri, Brompton Road, Kensington, London


RIBA4034Designs for the interior decoration of 1 South Audley Street, Mayfair, London: central chimneypiece in the smoking room

 
RIBA4035Designs for the interior decoration of 52 Prince's Gate, London, for Thomas Eustace Smith, Esq.: elevation of a wall and left doorway in the boudoir

 
RIBA4037Church of the Holy Trinity, Prince Consort Road, London


RIBA4038Preliminary design for Dance Music and Chamber Music Studio, BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London

 
RIBA4039Design for Fouracre, West Green, Hampshire

 
RIBA4040Design for a party invitation for the Architectural Association Rugby Club


RIBA4041Design for a metropolis

 
RIBA4042Design for 'The Tudor House' public house, Shoreham, Sussex

 
RIBA4043Design for Gillander House, Clive Buildings, Kolkata (Calcutta), viewed from the south


RIBA4044Design for a house in Kent

 
RIBA4045Design for the decoration of the statue of Eros for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Piccadilly Circus, London

 
RIBA4047Design for a wallpaper or textile showing lilies


RIBA4048Design for the Imperial Monumental Halls and Tower, Westminster, London: viewed looking north-east

 
RIBA4050Design for a 'Long Live the Queen' decoration banner for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in the shape of a train for the side of Hungerford Bridge, London

 
RIBA4051Design for the decorations for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Piccadilly, London, showing Bond Street entrance


RIBA4052Design for an imperial palace for the sovereigns of the British Empire, imagined to be in Hyde Park, London: elevation of one of the facades

 
RIBA4053Design for an imperial palace for the sovereigns of the British Empire, imagined to be in Hyde Park, London: perspective of a triumphal entrance

 
RIBA4054Design for an arch and screen, Hyde Park Corner, London: view from the south-east


RIBA4055Design for the New headquarters of the London Electric Railway Company (later London Underground), 55 Broadway, Westminster, London: view from the north-east

 
RIBA4058Design for a multi-storey office building, 235-257 Euston Road, London

 
RIBA4059Design for Kelling Hall, Norfolk