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Changing the world with architecture: Assemble joins the cause.
From a group of friends to the Turner Prize, from a temporary no-budget cinema to construction of a university exhibition building, the designer collective Assemble from London is on track for success. And its 15 members have done quite a lot of things differently than 'normal' architecture and design companies. The group's working method is interdisciplinary and hierarchy-free. They rely on participation and like to work not only with their minds, but with their hands when it comes time for construction.
London has come to be known as the financial metropolis with the overheated real estate market and as a city that is almost unaffordable for ordinary people. But it is right here, in the centre of turbo-capitalism, that an antidote to the fever can be found. For the past eight years, the Assemble collective has been working from South East London to improve the world—at least in little ways.
The current 18 Assemble members build temporary theatres, cinemas and workspaces, revitalise neighbourhoods, design playgrounds, set up workshops and manufacture furniture, tiles and fireplaces. Their primary concern: regaining public spaces. Surprisingly for Assemble as well as the London arts scene, their work was honoured with the prestigious Turner Prize in 2015. Their largest current project involves converting an old bathhouse into a showroom for the Goldsmiths arts school in London.
With their pragmatic attitude, Assemble represents an entire generation. The collective evolved from a loose group of friends and mainly consists of architects, but also includes academics and craftsmen. There are no hierarchies and the projects are realised in a collaborative process including a lot of experimentation and self-construction—preferably with the support of friends and volunteers.
Right from the start, Assemble involves the future users in the development of its projects, such as its revitalization concept for the neglected Liverpool district of Granby Four Streets, which earned the collective the Turner Prize. The inhabitants of the Victorian terraced houses have been trying to breathe new life into their neighbourhood for several years. Assemble has been contributing to this effort since 2012 by creating individually coordinated renovation plans and setting up a workshop, in which inhabitants can create new objects for the houses using found materials, for example.
WITH THEIR PRAGMATIC ATTITUDE, ASSEMBLE STANDS FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION.
Even in their first simple temporary projects like the cinema 'The Cineroleum' or the outdoor art installation 'Folly for a Flyover' under a motorway feeder road, Assemble demonstrated their pronounced sense for locations with potential. A few interventions often suffice to revive forgotten qualities or find new uses. They thus succeed in creating appealing productions and spaces, although they often use cheap building supplies or even found materials. Their projects prove that architecture can be successful, even far from the high-gloss luxury segment.