Dawson’s Heights: South London Sublime

Dawson’s heights: south london sublime

My first sight of it was from a distance. On a Sunday in spring I was heading towards Denmark Hill Overground after having visited the exhibition of David Hockney prints at Dulwich Picture Gallery with my mum and my brothers, so I was already in high spirits. As we walked I clocked the monumental structure poised on the edge of a hill in the direction of the Horniman Museum. I had vague recollections of noticing it before from various vantage points in Peckham, perhaps from the window of my train (although I haven’t seen it on my journeys to work since then). It was a shock, seeing it there so strikingly out of place and not knowing what it was despite having lived in South London for some time by that point. My brother, an architect, knew it straight away. A follower of Owen Hatherley’s now dormant blog, he’d read a report of the writer’s visit to the building some time ago. Attaching a name and a context, I determined that I had to pay a visit, and at the earliest possible opportunity.

I reflect with utter fondness on the charming early summer’s afternoon spent leaning against the balcony of the building’s top floor corridor. The vibe that day was very pleasant. It was an absurdly good idea for a first date. At the top floor we looked out over the London landscape bathed in sunlight, not a cloud to speak of, and alone exploiting the under-appreciated view from the south side of the City. There really was no one around up there and only a few people on the park leading up to it. Who needs Hampstead Heath when you can enjoy all to yourself the opposing view from a masterpiece of modernist social housing? Why, we both asked, can’t all housing be like this? ….

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