Two members of Assemble, a collective who won Turner Prize in 2015, Lous Schulz and Lewis Jones, visited Korea in the second of week of December in order to participate in this year’s Cultural Enrichment Forum as speakers. They explored two very different cities-Seoul and Namwon- to share their experiences.
Assemble are a collective based in London who work across the fields of art, architecture and design. They began working together for The Cineroleum, a self-initiated project that transformed a petrol station on Clerkenwell Road into a cinema, in 2010. They are comprised of 18 members. Assemble seek to actively involve the public as both participant and collaborator in their work.
In 2015 they won Europe’s most prestigious contemporary visual art award, the Turner Prize, for their regeneration project in Granby, Liverpool. They were the first collective and the first architecture or design studio to win the prize with an age range of 26 to 29. Charlotte Higgins, the chief culture writer of The Guardian, wrote that ‘to some, it seems like a monumental category error, like giving the Man Booker to, say, an oral poet.’
Granby Four Streets
Until their nomination, Assemble had never actually considered themselves to be artists.
Assemble’s Granby Four Streets was the result of a 20-year battle by local residents to save a series of terrace housing from demolition. The project presented a vision for the area that built on the hard work already done by local residents: refurbishing housing and public space, and providing new opportunities for the area’s residents.
Formed in 2010, Assemble has developed a reputation for collaborating closely with the communities that inhabit their projects. Granby Street was once a lively high street at the centre of Liverpool’s most racially and ethnically diverse community. Following many attempted regeneration projects, all but four of Granby’s streets were demolished, and the community was scattered across the city and beyond. Following the resourceful actions of a group of local residents, a campaign was launched to ‘reclaim their streets’. “Over two decades they cleared, planted, painted, and campaigned,” explains Assemble. Eventually forming the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust, the residents hired Assemble to devise a vision for the area, which could bring the empty homes back into use as affordable housing.
Their response nurtured the ‘resourcefulness and DIY spirit’ of the area and included the renovation of 10 houses and the creation of new social spaces, alongside local training and employment opportunities. All work was delivered in partnership with the local community. After sitting empty and neglected for over 30 years, new residents have now started to move into the renovated houses, breathing fresh life into the community. Until their nomination, Assemble had never actually considered themselves to be artists. "We were mostly confused,” they told The Observer’s architecture critic Rowan Moore of their surprise nomination in an interview in November 2015. “I think the nomination in some ways created a quite uncomfortable sense for us in terms of our work here [Granby] as there was suddenly this rarified eye coming to Granby and looking at people’s lives and the way they occupied space and their activities, which had been so organic.” Assemble member, Fran Edgerly, explains in the Tate video above.