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Byker, Byker Redevelopment (Byker Wall Estate)




Housing Estate

Council Housing Estate



Extant Building

In 1959 a motorway was proposed parallel to and south of Shields Road. Compulsory purchase in advance of road construction displaced 3000 people and broke the connection between Byker and the shops and facilities on Shields Road. Neglect and vandalism followed. Byker needed to be redeveloped. In November 1966 the Planning Department produced a booklet entitled 'Byker Neighbourhood: Guidelines for Development'. Proposals for redevelopment were progressed after a poll of residents in 1968. The Council appointed Ralph Erskine as architect in February 1970. He had designed houses at Killingworth in North Tyneside. The initial brief was to reappraise the draft proposals by Council architect, Douglas Cunningham. The aim was to house 9000 people at Byker. In July 1969 Erskine rented Nos. 45-47 Brinkburn Street, a former undertaker's premises. This became his project office both for Byker and a UK base for his Stockholm-based practice. In February 1970 Erskine produced his Plan of Intent ('A Report on the Byker Redevelopment Area'). There were to be two main traffic-free enclaves, mainly low-rise housing in sub-communities each with a specific local identity, a system of walkways partly based on existing streets, a 'wall' building to provide a sound barrier to the proposed dual carriageway, retention of existing community facilities (baths, churches, clubs), spaces provided amongst the housing for future community uses, shops and a doctor's surgery, 11 corner shops in amongst housing groups, new and existing schools, two care homes, a few small industrial units, district heating and an incinerator south of Walker Road, gardens for family dwellings, modular plans for dwelling types, a hierarchy of spaces - private, semi-private and private, a mix of people (families, elderly etc) throughout the housing. Design work was undertaken both in Byker and in Sweden. Vernon Gracie and Tony Smith were founder members of the UK office. The quantity surveyors were Gardiner & Theobold. Structural engineers were White Young & Partners. The estate is divided into different areas, physically and notionally. These were originally called phases or sub-communities, now referred to as neighbourhoods. 12 phases were built, a toal of 2010 dwellings. Janet Square was the pilot phase, built 1969-71 with 46 units. The perimeter block (The Wall) was begun 1971-74 with 212 dwellings. 165 units were added 1972-5. Kendal was built 1972-5 with 224 units. Grace Lee 1974-76 with 106 units. Gordon same time span, with 133 units. Dunn Terrace was built 1975-78 with 264 units. Bolam 1976-78 with 122 units. Chirton 1976-78 with 158 units. Janet Croft 1979-83 with 38 units. Raby Street 198-79 with 94 units. Carville 1978-80 with 161 units. Ayton 1978-80 with 152 units. Avondale 1979-83 135 units. A fundamental intention of the design was to provide a range of dwelling sizes (house, maisonette, flat, sheltered housing, care home) to suit the range of residents. The forms were also varied (terrace, number of storeys) to avoid the monotony of the 19th century terraces. The Wall is the tallest part of the estate - two blocks of curving sinuous flats and maisonettes, 5-8 storeys high. It was designed as a barrier to noise and pollution from the proposed motorway. South of The Wall are link blocks (Brinkburn House, Headlam House, Graham House, Jubilee Terraces). The link blocks gradually decreased the height and bulk of The Wall to the 2 storey housing below. Amongst the housing are a few feature buildings of 3 or 4 storeys to add variety (The Chevron, Bamburgh House, Headlam Green, Bolam Coyne, The Brow, Raby Cross Centre). The low-rise dwellings are grouped in short terraces (gossip groups) along pedestrian routes or around courtyards and squares. There are a handful of detached houses. The main fronts of the housings are south and west to take advantage of the light. Construction was based on quick pre-fabricated methods. The low-rise housing is largely timber-framed with pl




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