Drawing upon multifaceted strengths in art and design, London-based collective, Assemble, are seeking to revolutionise the way people think about architecture. Founded in 2010, Assemble call upon social collaboration to transform neglected spaces into the hippest of haunts, which - despite their inherent coolness - inhabit an admirable social emphasis that is quickly becoming a hallmark of Assemble’s designs.
For many, talk of London architecture typically conjures images of large, shiny buildings and unfeeling financial tower blocks. The work of Assemble seeks to challenge such preconceptions, with its now 18-strong team inviting the public to participate in their projects and thus address the "typical disconnection,” as identified on the collective’s website, “between public and process by which places are made."
The first project completed by the then nascent group - ‘The Cineroleum’ - sought to do just that. Exploring possible uses for the 4,000 or so empty petrol stations scattered around the city, Assemble and a team of over 100 volunteers - used reclaimed and donated material to transform an old roadside petrol station in Clerkenwell into a pop-up homage to the classic picture house. With just a single curtain dividing dreamers from drivers, Assemble exhibited the effortless edge modern day hipsters yearn for.
Embarking on a plethora of short-term projects involving the community since then, Assemble’s work embodies the youthful collaboration behind them, as clearly epitomised in ‘Big Slide’, created for the Stratford Rising festival in 2013; it was slid down over 15,000 times during the course of the festival. Live project ‘Baltic Street Adventure Playground’ similarly facilitates the same playful spirit, the children themselves taking charge to determine how the playground will be used and evolve.
The remainder of Assemble's current projects constitute an eclectic mix of commercial and more socially responsible creations. That is not to say that the commercial projects aren't socially responsible, but when you take creating an art gallery for Goldsmiths' University – to be nestled in the heart of an Old Victorian bath house, the original baths preserved – and compare this with the refurbishment of 10 derelict terraced houses in Toxteth, Liverpool, the disparity becomes more apparent.
The latter, a project entitled ‘10 Houses on Cairns Street’ is part of a partnership between Assemble and the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust, and is described on the collective’s website as “the result of a hard-won, 20-year battle by local residents to save the houses from demolition.” Through this project, Assemble have sought to assist local residents as they rallied together to bring new life to a group of houses that were deserted for years, even creating a vibrant monthly market that continues to be a success. Creating and strengthening community in this way, it is not just places but the people that this collective so brilliantly assembles.
[Assemble is nominated for Turner Prize 2015 and their 'Granby Workshop' is being shown at the Turner Prize Exhibition in Tramway Glasgow. The winner will be announced live on Channel 4 on 7 December 2015.]
Words: Seth Footring