Inside Assemble's Creative Process
Material Sketches by Assemble is a limited edition of seven mixed-media prints, each capturing a material essence of a different project. Spanning architecture, design and art, Assemble’s hand-crafted objects and large-scale schemes across mainland Europe, Japan, North America and here in the UK reflect their conviction in a collaborative method of working.
Each print in the limited-edition is prompted by a material relating to a finished Assemble project and has been paired with a different material from Sugarhouse Studios (Assemble’s HQ). As a statement from Assemble explains, ‘This series celebrates the work we were able to create at Sugarhouse Studios, with the space for mess and noise; space which is becoming increasingly challenging to afford and access in the city. It has allowed us to work with many artisans and artists; experimenting, prototyping and working together.’
Chloe Grimshaw interviewed Assemble about this series for Sketched, and the following is adapted from a broadsheet that forms part of the limited edition.
These are some vessels that were made during our project in Japan called The Rules of Production. We were invited by the Shiseido gallery in Tokyo, and it was a collaboration between Assemble and Granby workshop, a ceramics manufacturing studio that we started in Liverpool.
During the exhibition we had a live-making process, where we made moulds and were slip-casting. Visitors could take part in the process of slip-casting and the moulds were designed in a way that you could assemble them into these pots that could be multiplied: they were units that were flexible depending on how you assembled the mould, the object would be bigger, taller, whatever…
We worked with a Japanese ceramicist Minoru Suzuki and afterwards we went to Mashiko which is one of the ceramic towns in Japan, which has a long history of ceramic art production. We worked in one of the wood kilns there for 48 hours straight, firing some of these pieces. They are glazed on the inside, so they can be used for any liquid or other intent.
"We worked in one of the wood kilns there for 48 hours straight, firing some of these pieces"
This is a prototype of the Granby Rock. It’s made from what is seemingly waste, reusing materials from the derelict, obsolete houses in Granby – the bricks, the tiles, the slates. The object encapsulates quite a lot of ideas that are important to Assemble – about questioning where value lies in things and finding value where other people might not.
That kind of thinking is really important for where the world needs to go in terms of climate change. In that sense, the Granby Rock is an object we have referred back to quite a few times, and subsequent projects have had their own version of Granby Rock.
These blue panels are prototypes from the Atelier Luma which is a materials lab in Arles in the South of France. The Atelier develops projects using the resources of the local landscape, so all of the projects are really rooted in place. We at Assemble are collaborating with BC architects and materials to create a new workspace for the Atelier, which is going to be an extension of the work they are producing.
All of our construction materials, including this panel, use materials from the local landscape. For example, these panels use micro-algae which is abundant in La Camargue region in the south of France, and this is combined with a linseed oil to create this paint, which when exposed to light turns this really lovely blue.
There are other materials we’ve been exploring in the local landscape, such as rice straw – which is a by-product of the rice industry – which will be used for insulation
The quarries are producing some waste and then that doesn’t get used so much, so we are using stone dust to create plasters. This is a material that is just lying around so it has a really low embodied energy. The workspace itself is an existing warehouse which was a train depot – we’re not taking down the building so we’re storing a hell of a lot of carbon in the structure itself.
One of the big reasons that we should be retro-fitting is because of the amount of carbon that is stored and locked-up in existing buildings. We’re retrofitting the stone warehouse internally with materials like rammed earth, using limestone dust and working with local manufacturers and experts to produce these materials, so it’s contributing to the local community, and the knowledge existing at the Atelier and surrounding industries.
Atelier Luma is a really good reflection of the local landscape – you don’t often see buildings that take from the landscape really honestly and it’s almost a prototype for how I think we should be building and how we can take directly from the local landscape, while using processes in a really sustainable way that don’t generate a lot of energy.
"we’re not taking down the building so we’re storing a hell of a lot of carbon in the structure itself"
These are fabric samples for this project I’ve been working on – we’re designing the space for this audio-visual experience called Dreamachine. The idea is that there’s this room – a timber drum – that you’ll go in and experience quite an intensive light exhibit with lots of strobes and flashing lights; but after that quite intensive experience, you come out and there will be this space of reflection, which we envisaged being constructed with a lot of different transparencies and being a bit ephemeral.
The experience itself in the drum initiates some hallucinatory things and I was thinking about how you can mirror that in a subtler way in the reflections space. We’re also using timber and wood grain – and this is two bits of voile and we’re interested in what happens when we double them up and you get the moiré effect – it’s good with movement and very similar to woodgrain, with loads of crossing-over fibres.
Dreamachine itself – this timber drum – is a very dark navy blue, but the reflection space is now more orangey. We’ve been doing a lot of these conversations on Zoom, so we’ve had to describe colour and there’s a lot of ‘orangey browny cardboardy’ and a lot of that stuff is so subjective; actually having the samples here in front of you in decent light is so important.
Now the reflection space is trying to be a warmer place in the browny world – and all of the metal-work and the curtains are silver – so even though that can be quite a loud combination; navy blue, orangey brown and silver, the idea is that these are the colours that would be found in a sunrise, or at dusk.
Thursday 17th November
18:00 – 20:30
19 Collett Rd
London SE16 4DJ
To celebrate the publication of a new limited edition Material Sketches by Turner Prize-winning art and architecture collective Assemble, Sketched will host a discussion titled ‘Show and Tell’ with members of Assemble and Granby Workshop. Assemble will open up their studio in Bermondsey for the night’s live conversation, which is free for anyone to attend. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and discover more about collaboration and the creative process.
To discover more about the artistic process head over to Sketched