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(Above) A selection of plans and elevations

(Left) Detail of the house's construction

(Opposite) The entrance bridge connecting the house to the mountainous surrounding landscape

(Above) A selection of plans and elevations

(Left) Detail of the house's construction

(Opposite) The entrance bridge connecting the house to the mountainous surrounding landscape

Ralph Erskine BYKER WALL

(Newcastle upon Tyne, England) 1968-74

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Ralph Erskine's Byker housing project is one of the most celebrated episodes in the brief history of the populist movement in architecture following the cultural-social explosion of May 1968. Although the project is unique, the story it tells is characteristic.

Byker began as a settlement built in haste for shipyard craftsmen. A ten-thousand-strong village of skilled workers who lived in red-brick flats and enjoyed a strong sense of commun ity, it was declared overcrowded by the officials of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The conflict between an obsolete built tissue and a still vital social fabric demanding to be accommo

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involvement over a period of fifteen years with social housing in Sweden. His success was partly due to his commitment to making no design decisions unless close consultation with the users of the project had first taken place. At that time, such procedures were still unorthodox in most parts of the world, although very much in tune with the polyarchic spirit of Scandinavian Welfare State policies.

When he was invited to work on the Byker Wall project, Erskine was professionally located in Sweden and had therefore to arrange for an office annex on site. Consequently. it was not as easy for him to embark on dated within it is a common problem worldwide. The old solutions of massive demolition and redevelopment conceived and imposed from above, as practised at least since the end of the Second World War in Europe, Great Britain and in Newcastle itself, were rejected in the case of Byker. It is to the credit of the local authorities that they reached this conclusion early on. and equally to the credit of the private developer, whose understanding of the nature of the problem was enhanced by the populist movement of the end of the 1960s.

Ralph Erskine was invited to design the project because of his previous successful

(Opposite, above) Urban plan

(Opposite, below) Byker Wall from the outside

(Above) From the inside

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