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Urban regeneration is a significant category in the field of urban design. In the seventh lecture of Principle and Practice of Urban Design, John Sparkes, head of Regeneration South Tyneside Council, discussed how to achieve design quality in area based regeneration by taking an example of South Tyneside. Inspired by the both the 7th lecture and the 6th lecture that Byker redevelopment was introduced, I did further study on Byker that, in my opinion, may be regenerated as an inventory community in a “progressive” way.

Due to the rapid development of cities and towns, coupled with industrial restructuring and industrial transformation, the old areas that were originally full of vitality quickly declined. So over the last decades, the urban regeneration agenda that is applied for solving urban issues (Roberts & Sykes, 2000) has been practiced all over the world. The definition of urban regeneration has been evolved along with the practices from “bulldozer reconstruction” to regeneration of both physical and social contexts. The former large-scale demolition and reconstruction model needs to face the extremely high cost; at the same time, the neglect of local context leads to the loss of sense of community. As a result, urban reconstruction has gradually been replaced by urban regeneration. One approach is progressive regeneration that means redevelopment at small scale, community empowerment and pluralistic management.

Byker is a lived case study of urban regeneration, considering its redevelopment by Ralph Erskine in the 1970s and the ongoing regeneration.Byker used to be an ancient village accommodating working class of Newcastle upon Tyne, a major coal mining and ship building city in the 19th century, but turned to be a slum due to the high density and poor living condition. Under the background of social housing development, Ralph Erskine was appointed to redevelop a new Byker for Byker people. Because of the poor condition of the existing buildings, Erskine had to demolish and replace some buildings. In order to retain the original social context, Erskine put forward a “rolling programme” (Erskine, R., Futagawa, Y., & Egelius, M., 1980) that provided temporary accommodations for residents before they moved to new housing. “User participation” (Erskine, et al., 1980) was valued by Erskine during the redevelopment, which partly contributed to the great success of Byker where people felt sense of cohesion and enjoyed community life in the open spaces.

There is no doubt that it is a masterwork of Erskine although, unfortunately, it declined gradually after a period of prosperity due to many reasons like political environment (Li, J., Zhang Z. & Wang, K., 2011). Residents reduction and new settlers broke the relationship of community and lack of maintenance funds also brought safety problem. However, Byker got a chance when the British Labor Party was in power again since 1997. A series of progressive measurements were taken to regenerate it rather than to reconstruct it because, in 2006, it was approved to be Grade II Listing. It seems that Byker is being reborn after regeneration but in fact it still has long way to go.

In order to be sustainable development, the progressive regeneration should be implemented into an inventory community. First of all, small scale regeneration is necessary to improve physical environment without destroy the collective memory of places. Secondly, we should value community empowerment as a persistent force and regenerate the site based on community demands. Last but not least, stakeholders should work together and achieve complementary advantages. For example, developers invest money to the programme and get bonuses from local governments.

All in all, progressive regeneration is a good way to improve the public life of community residents and enhance the vitality of community to keep the community “authentic” and reshape the residents’ confidence and hope.


[1] Roberts, P. & Sykes, H. (2000). Urban regeneration: A Handbook. London: SAGE.
[2] Jones, P. & Evans, J. (2008). Urban Regeneration in the UK: Theory and Practice, SAGE Publications, London.
[3] Pendlebury, J., Townshend, T. & Gilroy, R. (2005). Social Housing as Cultural Landscape: A Case Study of Byker [J]. Cultural Landscapes in the 21st Century.
[4] Zhu, J. G. Byker, Newcastle, Britain, 1968-1981 [J]. World Architecture. 1983(02):49-51
[5] Qian, Y., Wu, X. Y. & Feng, J. F. (2012). Byker Wall Estate [J]. Design Community. 2012(03):71-75.
Li, J., Zhang Z. & Wang, K. Decline and Reborn of Byker after Redevelopment [J]. Architect. 2011(04):68-73.
[6] English Heritage, Newcastle upon Tyne. City Council, & North East Civic Trust. (2005). A Byker future: The conservation plan for the Byker Redevelopment, Newcastle upon Tyne: Report for consultation & adoption spring 2005. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: North East Civic Trust].
[7] Erskine, R., Futagawa, Y., & Egelius, M. (1980). Byker redevelopment, Byker area of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, 1969-82 (Global architecture; 55). Tokyo, Japan: A.D.A. Edita Tokyo.

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