The nomination of architectural collective Assemble for the Turner Prize in May marked a moment of real significance. Young, widely admired and increasingly influential, Assemble do things differently. They don’t wait for commissions to come to them, they initiate their own projects and work with communities and institutions to create designs of real social value. Then, most of the time, they build the projects themselves, learning as they go.
This is very far from the traditional image of the architect as the immaculate intellectual working in a minimalist studio. But at a time when the authority and influence of architects are being eroded and austerity has devastated local-authority and government building programmes, are such collectives the future of progressive architecture?
Assemble emerged as a loose collection of architecture students five years ago and is part of a wider realisation that architects have become tools in a neoliberal system, tinkering with the concrete expression of capital. […]