THE Newcastle office of the renowned architect Ralph Erskine is to be converted into homes.
It was in this two-storey building in Brinkburn Street, Byker, where Erskine and his team worked on the redevelopment of the ‘old Byker’ estate. Thanks to their efforts, it went on to become the Grade II* listed Byker Wall Estate it is today.
Now, after standing empty for two years, the building is to be renamed Ralph Erskine House and converted into apartments.
Byker Community Trust (BCT) is converting the building into four two-bedroom apartments, including two ground floor apartments that provide low-level access for wheelchair users. It is expected the works will be completed this month.
“Walking around Byker you realise that Erskine’s vision was to create something of social worth,” said Jill Haley, BCT’s chief executive. “He was revolutionary in his time, by basing himself on the estate to consult with people face to face and ensuring that they were at the heart of his design plans.”
BCT acquired the building from Newcastle City Council and is investing £393,300 to convert it into new homes for older people. An Empty Homes Grant of £120,000 was awarded by Homes England to support the initiative.
Originally built as a funeral parlour in the 1900s, the building was converted into an office in 1969 to facilitate redevelopment of the Byker Estate. The office acted as main focal point between Newcastle City Council, the Byker community and Erskine’s design team.
In 1975, a large hot air balloon mural was painted on the Brinkburn Street building by Erskine and his team, as a way of tidying up the raw gable end following demolition of an adjacent property.
At the time of writing, BCT were looking for a local artist to help recreate the mural, which was also very much Erskine’s own visual signature. He used it as a hopeful symbol and believed that it represented the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity.
Haley added: “We are looking to recreate Erskine’s iconic hot air balloon visual signature on the side of his old office, as a tribute to him It will be a great opportunity for a local person to make a lasting impression; a gesture that I’m confident Ralph Erskine would have liked.”