In a delightful courtyard garden in south London, a woman in her late 70s is speaking with calm fury. “The steamroller of big finance,” she says, “is being allowed, no, encouraged, progressively to crush out all innovative and creative, locally generated activities.” She is furious because this garden, with its fig, eucalyptus and banana trees, is now considered, in effect, to be a brownfield site, and that it and the houses round it are therefore ripe for redevelopment. With them, everything she has worked for through her life is also under threat.
She is Kate Macintosh, an architect who, working for local authorities in Southwark, Lambeth, East Sussex and Hampshire, designed buildings for public benefit that were at once bold, original and humane. At the age of 28 she designed one of the most remarkable housing developments in the country at Dawson’s Heights in Dulwich, also south London, which amplifies its hilltop site with blocks piling up to 12 storeys high, but which also breaks down into intimate clusters of balconies, and encloses a generous shared garden. Seen from a distance it is dramatic; up close it is protective. […]