Skip to main content?

Assemble

Assemble Studio is a UK based collective started in 2009 by a group of Cambridge University graduates just beginning their architectural careers—none had yet earned full qualifications as an architect. Their first project was the Cineroleum, an abandoned petrol station turned into a temporary cinema. Built with a strong do-it-yourself ethic and aesthetic, it incorporated inexpensive, reclaimed and donated materials. The ‘cinema’ was only separated from the busy street by a curtain – a curtain that was lifted at the film screening.

By 2010 they had established themselves as a company, creating projects in tandem with the communities who use and inhabit them and critically examining the relationship between design, public space and public life. Today the collective fluctuates between 16 and 20 members and relies heavily on participation from the public. In speaking to Metropolis Magazine, member Matthew Leung describes Assemble.

“Assemble Studio… has maintained an ethos of community engagement and a commitment to social projects and has none of the utopianism of the 1960s and ’70s collectives. Its members are not dreamers or manifesto writers; they are doers. They roll up their sleeves and build.  And they work with and for local communities, not in spite of them. They are a necessary antidote to London’s addiction to building luxury apartments that no one will live in.”

Assemble’s temporary installations have occasionally been so important to their communities that they become permanent. “Folly for a Flyover,” temporarily transformed a highway underpass into a public venue, inviting the general public to come to workshops, talks, tours and theater. Over nine weeks, 40,000 local residents attended. The success of the project attracted permanent funds from the London Legacy Development Corporation, which has allowed the site to continue being used as a public space.

In 2015, Assemble Studio won the prestigious Turner Prize for visual arts, for its Granby Four Streets project in Liverpool.  While it was unprecedented and controversial to award the prize to an architectural collaborative, prize judges praised what they called “a ground-up approach to regeneration, city planning and development in opposition to corporate gentrification.” The jury’s citation stated that, “They draw on long traditions of artistic and collective initiatives that experiment in art, design and architecture. In doing so they offer alternative models to how societies can work.”