Azure - - CONTENTS - AS TOLD TO _Danny Sinopoli as­sem­blestu­

Five things we learned from As­sem­ble

When As­sem­ble won the Turner Prize in 2015, some artists carped about the U.K.’S top vis­ual art award go­ing to a group of ar­chi­tects. But the col­lec­tive, best known for its low-cost, high-im­pact ur­ban in­ter­ven­tions, is hardly a typ­i­cal prac­tice. Started in 2011 by 18 twen­tysome­things with a range of back­grounds, it has been called “the fu­ture of pro­gres­sive ar­chi­tec­ture” for its col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to its projects, the big­gest of which – the Gold­smiths Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Art – is set to open soon. Re­cently, mem­bers James Bin­ning and Maria Liso­gorskaya spoke to Azure about the sus­tain­abil­ity of As­sem­ble’s model, sug­gest­ing lessons for firms big and small. 1 Avoid hi­er­ar­chi­cal think­ing. JB: At As­sem­ble, peo­ple un­der­stand the tasks they’re di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for on a daily ba­sis. There’s also a col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity for the to­tal out­put of the of­fice. So, if Maria’s work­ing on some­thing, I’ll know what’s go­ing on with that project, and I’ll be avail­able to sup­port it if she thinks that some­thing I do could be use­ful. ML: We have reg­u­lar project re­views, where we select, say, four projects, then cri­tique them as a group. Some­times we have char­rettes where we brain­storm ideas for a project. And we also cook lunch for each other ev­ery day. 2 Al­low peo­ple and roles to evolve. JB: Our struc­ture con­tin­u­ally adapts. In some ways, we work with each other dif­fer­ently than we did five years ago. But as the au­thors of the rules we all sign up for, we’re able to re­write those rules as cir­cum­stances change. 3 Be open to new blood. JB: We al­ready have many out­side col­lab­o­ra­tors, such as en­gi­neers, who are part of our net­work. ML: We would like to have new in­put at some point. It’s just a chal­leng­ing thing to re­al­ize be­cause re­la­tion­ships are im­por­tant. 4 Em­brace change (and do it faster). JB: In many cases, the ar­chi­tec­ture in­dus­try is still us­ing build­ing tech­nolo­gies that the an­cient Ro­mans would rec­og­nize. We al­ways find im­mense value in work­ing with new peo­ple – such as tech­ni­cal peo­ple and mem­bers of the pub­lic – who are in­clined to ques­tion our pre­sump­tions. 5 Tackle big­ger projects in­cre­men­tally. ML: A few peo­ple at As­sem­ble are in­ter­ested in scal­ing up. The ques­tion is, How do you build on a large scale and still have hands-on in­put? For the Gold­smiths art gallery [a new, 1,000-square-me­tre fa­cil­ity in­cor­po­rat­ing a re­pur­posed Vic­to­rian bath­house and ad­join­ing wa­ter tanks], we de­cided to fo­cus on a sin­gle el­e­ment: the fa­cade. It’s made of cor­ru­gated con­crete roof sheets, which we turned ver­ti­cally and stained, so that it looks like cop­per. We were aim­ing for im­pact, and not spread­ing our­selves across every­thing. The rest – me­chan­i­cal, plumb­ing – was de­liv­ered more tra­di­tion­ally. That’s how we’d po­ten­tially han­dle some­thing like a sky­scraper, too.

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