Assemble: a worthy winner

I am delighted to learn that Assemble has won this year’s Turner prize. Assemble is a London based architecture collective carrying out innovative low-cost work with local communities and arts organisations.

Photograph: Assemble
Photograph: Assemble

There has already been some discussion about is this art? Bearing in mind some of the conceptual art that has won the prize over the past 20 years the question is hard to fathom. The modern notion of Art, “with a capital A”, with a single semi divine creator, has become pretentious, ignoring whole reams of other creative work, often collaborative, which get dismissed as design, craft or whatever.

I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in May with the Assemble member, Amica Dall, at The Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) Conference 2015 – Power up or Power Down?

She talked eloquently and enthusiastically about several of Assemble’s projects including one of my favourites – Folly for a Flyover – which transformed a disused motorway undercroft in Hackney Wick into an arts venue and new public space. Over nine weeks, 40,000 Londoners came and participated in an enlivening mishmash of activities including creative works, discussions and performances.

What Assemble, which was founded in 2010, does is innovative, collaborative and yes – art. Here’s how they were described by the Guardian when nominated for the award in August:-

The diversity of Assemble’s work is matched only by their ability to make things happen in unlikely circumstances, where the usual necessities of a client, site or budget might not be in ready supply.

Alistair Hudson, one of this year’s Turner Prize judges, said Assemble fit into “a long tradition of art working in society”.

What Assemble have done in Toxteth is both socially admirable – they have turned around a downward spiral of disuse and demolition and helped build a renewed respect for the local architecture. Their designs are imaginative, innovative and practical in their modesty.

Well done Assemble!


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