Byker Wall

Byker Wall, Newcastle upon Tyne: Case Study


General outline

The Byker Wall is the name given to a long unbroken block of 620 maisonettes in the Byker district of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The block was designed by the notable architect Ralph Erskine assisted by Vernon Gracie, and was built between 1968 and 1982. Its Functionalist Romantic styling with textured, complex facades, colourful brick, wood and plastic panels, attention to context and relatively low-rise construction represented a major break with the Brutalist high-rise architectural orthodoxy of the time.[1]
Its innovative and visionary design has earned it many awards notably the Civic Trust Award, the Eternit Award, the Ambrose Congreve Award for Housing (in 1980) and the Veronica Rudge Green Prize for Urban Design from Harvard University. The Wall has also been placed on UNESCO's list of outstanding twentieth century buildings.
In 2003 the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced a proposal to award the Byker Estate, of which the wall forms a part, a Grade II listed rating as an example of outstanding architecture. In 2007 the Estate became a grade II* listed building.1

Community approach

The estate was designed to re-house local residents from their brick terraces. The architect considered the social aspects of the project and how it could best serve the community. A pilot group of 48 houses was launched to test these ideas. Residents were strongly involved within the consultation process with the architects. The architects held an ‘open door’ policy whereby residents input was welcomed rather than the traditional top down masterplan approach. Thus making this design prototype a new model of ‘community architecture’.

Although the existing housing was demolished to make make for the new development some old buildings including pubs, churches and swimming baths were retained in the new design.
The move to the new development was also phased to help try to keep a sense of community alive.
The layout was designed to encourage cars to be left at the edges of the estate and public spaces were included to encourage social interaction. The area was landscaped with trees and gardens.2



The curved wall gives the community and the architecture its identity and has inherited an iconic status. The wall also serves as an acoustic buffer to prevent excessive noise within the estate.

The wall element is predominantly made up of smaller dwelling units intended for small families or individuals without children. Behind the wall are two storey and split level timber framed hoses to accommodate families, this accounts for 80% of the scheme. These are laid out in traditional streets to replicate the sense of scale known by the original community.



The visual mass of the wall and the dense brickwork is countered by the lightweight structures protruding from the facades. The timber balcony structures are said to have a ‘DIY’ aesthetic.

Floor Plans

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See also

External links

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