Protohome, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2016


Protohome was a self-build housing project which was temporarily sited and open to the public at Upper Steenbergs in the Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne, from May-August 2016. It was initiated by Heslop in collaboration with Crisis, the national charity for single homelessness, xsite architecture and TILT Workshop and in affiliation with Newcastle City Council.


Working alongside an architect and a joiner, a group of individuals who have experienced homelessness developed a timber-frame model of self-build housing which is specifically designed for untrained self-builders. The aim was not to create a full housing model with services, but a ‘shell’ structure that offers a vision of how this model could be developed into working housing in the future. The ‘house’ hosted a programme of events and exhibitions examining the collaborative design-build process and wider issues to do with housing and homelessness in an austerity context and participatory alternatives.


The design and build process emphasised learning – long term personal development and employment opportunities for participants. The building was developed through hands on workshops with TILT Artistic Services at Crisis Skylight Centre, Newcastle. Group members were given training in design and joinery and also documented the process through film and photography. Training and skilling up were at the heart of this project – the learning process being just as important as the product and the process was designed to act as a stepping stone to other more formal education or employment opportunities.


The project is grounded in the current social housing crisis, and the effect that austerity measures are having upon already precarious lives. Homelessness is growing and housing for low income groups is becoming more perilous and temporary in nature with increasing over-crowding, people living ‘on the move’, sofa-surfing or being forced to migrate out of the inner city, so people are seeking self-help solutions and more ‘marginal’ ways of living and ‘home-making’. It is vital that we seek out alternatives to the continued and accelerating retrenchment of state provided housing and rising homelessness.


The building has now been gifted to the Ouseburn Farm and is being used as a workshop and classroom.


Find out more on the project website: www.protohome.org.uk and see the project publication here.

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Protohome situated in the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne

The interior of Protohome

Making joints in the Protohome workshop

Putting the frames up (Photo: Hev Johnson)

Building Protohome (Photo: John Hipkin)

Painting roof panels (Photo: John Hipkin)

Building Protohome (Photo: John Hipkin)

Building Protohome (Photo: John Hipkin)

Building Protohome (Photo: John Hipkin)

Putting the floor in (Photo: John Hipkin)

Inviting the public to have their say on housing issues

The event 'Dwelling and its Discontents: Art, Home and Economy' at Protohome

Closing barbeque with Culture Kitchen (Photo: John Hipkin)

© 2019 by Julia Heslop