PROTOHOME is led by Crisis, the national charity for single homelessness, xsite architecture and TILT Workshop. It is in affiliation with Newcastle City Council and forms part of a research project at Durham University by artist Julia Heslop.

PROTOHOME is 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. 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 (see the programme in the ‘Conversations’ section).

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. Participants 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.

This website documents the project but also hosts ongoing conversations about the issues that frame the project.

To find out more contact:

The PROTOHOME report

The PROTOHOME publication

The PROTOHOME documentary

This project is kindly supported by Newcastle City Council, the Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Account and The Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham University.