The 84-year-old architect is known for the creation of social housing within the modern architecture of the 1960s in the UK. Her entire career has been connected to a political and social causality.
Kate Macintosh was born in 1937 in Edinburgh, where she grew up and trained at the School of Art. After graduating in 1961, she was awarded a scholarship by the British Council to continue her studies in Warsaw for a year. She then worked in various European cities such as Copenhagen and Helsinki, before returning to the United Kingdom in 1964.
The architect’s childhood was marked by her parents’ socialist convictions. In fact, her father directed Scottish Special Housing Direct Labour, an association aimed at providing social housing in order to alleviate the destruction caused by the wars. In addition, both he, who was a civil engineer, and his grandfather, who was an architect, passed on to her the attraction for buildings.
The first project of her own, and one of his greatest works, was the Dawson Heigh’s State housing estate in London. She was chosen from among all the proposals put forward by the architecture department of the London borough of Southwark where he worked, for a suggestive approach to the site. She was inspired by the shape of a ziggurat or the structure of a mountain town in Italy to create the building. In such a way that he gave the central area greater height and progressively lowered the side parts. In addition, this arrangement makes it possible to minimise the blocking of sunlight and views.
The viewpoint effect created by the brick hill has a privileged position where if you look north you can see Primrose Hily wharf, but if you shift your focus to the south you can see the natural landscape of North Down. The north-south arrangement of the dwellings creates what is known as an open common space. Another of Macintosh’s great intentions was to generate social relationships and community through architecture, so she created interlocking dwellings of different sizes with shared access by providing open galleries on every third floor. She was inspired by the tartan mesh, a typical Scottish pattern, to distribute the dwellings. In such a way that families of different sizes or groups of different ages can live in this construction, enhancing diversity.
In addition to her close connection with a social conception of architecture, she is also known for her fervent political activism, which is reflected in her leadership of various working groups at the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), exhibitions such as Women Architects – Their work with Naddine Beddington and Lynne Walke. In 1993, she was the first chair of the Women’s Architect Group, later becoming RIBA Vice President for Public Affairs in 1996.
Kate Macintosh is an iconic advocate of the idea that building design should be subordinate to public benefit. Aware of the difficulty in recognising the work of women architects, her career is marked by a clear feminist component which she has conveyed on more than one occasion: “Pat Tindale was a role model and an inspiration to most women architects in the UK in the 1960s, when we were still regarded by many of our colleagues as suspicious curiosities“.