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Architecture can be painfully complicated. Making a building today most often means going through a fairly undesirable process: finding ways to design despite limited budgets, glacial development times and unbelievable amounts of paperwork. Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to the work of Assemble, an 18-member collective in London (and winner of the 2015 Turner Prize) that still practices architecture as the art of making spaces for people.

Assemble’s work is a refreshingly honest engagement with the public and public realm — particularly through the creation of unexpected venues for art and performance. Assemble has built a cinema in an abandoned gas station, a public plaza beneath a highway overpass and a temporary theater for a community arts festival. In these projects, the architecture is less about expensive materials and fancy form, and more about what happens within.

Beyond their work, I’m also enamored with Assemble’s mode of practice. The group emphasizes independence, agency and a DIY mindset. Assemble goes to great lengths to collaborate with clients. Their work to help plan a neighborhood for a community land trust in Liverpool resulted in Assemble leveraging its own fame to promote and sponsor an entire social enterprise dedicated to helping promote and sell the work of local artists and artisans.

For me, Assemble is a good reminder that desirability in design can be about process — as much as it is about a product or project. 

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