Byker Ralph Erskine tillsammans med ett barn [Byker Ralph Erskine with a child]. Arkitektur- och designcentrum Stockholm. (Link to download and terms of license:
On File and As Files

Tracing Communicative Processes in the Byker Archive





archives, materiality, participation, architectural design process, post-World War ll housing


In this paper, we piece together threads of communicative processes between residents, architects, and other parties, as found in the lists and letters of the archive of the Byker Redevelopment in Newcastle Upon Tyne (1968-83). Documents that are usually discarded or neglected by architectural researchers - from a stack of various papers documenting residents’ lists of complaints, evaluative papers such as an audit report, and architects’ memos, to a resident’s letter of complaint - enable us to reconstruct, first, how a mainstream practice collected and filed residents’ experiences and understanding of their homes, and second, how, through the circulation of those papers in action as files, residents’ notes were also embedded in the design process.

How to Cite

Kajita, H. S., & Lloyd Thomas, K. (2023). On File and As Files: Tracing Communicative Processes in the Byker Archive. SPOOL, 10(1), 21–36.




Author Biographies

Heidi Svenningsen Kajita, University of Copenhagen

Heidi  Svenningsen  Kajita  is  an  architect  and  assistant  professor  in  the  Section   for   Landscape   Architecture   and   Planning   at   the   University   of   Copenhagen. Kajita works for social change in everyday spaces focusing on the history and transformation of welfare state large-scale housing. She draws on emerging  ethnographic-architectural  methodology  to  combine  knowledge  of  users’ everyday practices, normative frameworks for the built environment, and architects’ drawn and written work. Currently she works on the research projects Practicing Complaints (2022-2023) and on (Im)possible Instructions: Inscribing Use-Value in the Architectural Design Process (2019–23). She has a background in feminist pedagogy and in urban design; she is co-founder of Bureaus and is part of Aktion Arkiv, a group of researchers and artists using collaborative methods and formats, such as witness seminars and exhibitions, to publicly bring together diverse actors around urban cultural, historical, and political issues.

Katie Lloyd Thomas, Newcastle University

Katie Lloyd Thomas is Professor of Theory and History of Architecture at Newcastle University and a member of the Architectural Research Quarterly (ARQ) editorial team. Her publications include Material Matters (Routledge, 2007); with Tilo Amhoff, Nick Beech, Industries of Architecture (Routledge, 2015); and a monograph Building Materials: Material theory and the architectural specification (Bloomsbury, forthcoming) A founder member of the feminist collective taking place, Katie’s research often examines intersections between gender, architecture and technology.



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