Social engineering and participation in Anglo-Swedish housing 1945–1976: Ralph Erskine's vernacular plan

Natasha Vall
  • Planning Perspectives, April 2013, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2013.737710

Ralph Erskine's Anglo-Swedish housing models

What is it about?

The article examines the career of the architect Ralph Erskine. It focuses on how he implemented the ideals of Swedish modern architecture and democracy in the British housing projects he was engaged with between 1945 and 1974, such as his redevelopment of Byker in Newcastle upon Tyne. Erskine's approach used community architecture, involving tenants in the design and planning of their new homes. This often revealed the difficulties of realising Swedish housing ideals to a British context.

Why is it important?

In 2011 the Byker Wall Estate was awarded 'Community Trust' status giving its tenants the stewardship over their estate that Ralph Erskine had hoped would arise from his community architecture project initiated over forty years ago. Housing ministers see this as a signal of how the 'Big Society' can mobilise participation in social housing. This article's historical appraisal is a timely reminder of the difficulties that ensue when political ideals are deployed to mobilise community action.

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