Assemble, a team of 18 young British architects and designers, all under 30, are among the finalists to the Turner Prize, which is awarded every year by the Tate Gallery.The Turner Prize 2015 will be held at Glasgow's Tramway, an international art-space renowned for commissioning, producing and presenting contemporary arts projects, and the winner of the prize will be announced on 7 December, 2015.
For the first time in the story of UK's most important and prestigious art award, a collective of artists, working at the intersection of art, architecture and design, is shortlisted for the prize, with a public art work, a project called Granby Four Streets, in Toxteth, Livepool, an area affected by violent riots in 1981, to which years of dereliction and institutional neglect have followed.
The London based collective works with the cooperation of the inhabitants of Toxteth who, in more than two decades, have saved the area from dereliction and from plans to demolish the houses.
Now Assemble have launched a new social enterprise, Granby Workshop, that is born from this community based reconstruction project of Granby. The Workshop was launched through the nomination of the collective to the Turner Prize “and it aims at using the prize to develop the work done in Granby and to create a long term benefit for the area”, explains Lewis Jones, one of the founders of the collective.
The workshop, which is based in Granby Street, sells a series of handmade products for homes made in Granby, realized by involving young people of the area.
Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign it is possible to pre-order the first edition of the products and help Assemble launch the workshop (production starts in January 2016) and support the reconstruction of the area. All income from the sale of the products goes back into Granby Workshop and will support a programme involving young people of the area.
The prototypes of the products of the workshop are now on show at Assemble's Showroom at the Turner Prize Exhibition that opened in Glasgow on the 1st of October 2015 and takes place until the 17th of January 2016.
Vita International has met Lewis Jones, Assemble's co-founder, to speak about their new social enterprise.
How was the idea of the Granby Workshop born?
It was grown out of the work we have done in Granby Four Streets in the last 2 years working with local residents and Community Land Trusts to refurbish the houses which have been empty for 20 to 30 years.
We are designing all the products to replace all the things that have been stripped out of the houses as they were boarded up by the council.
We are trying to find a way to use the Turner Prize to develop the work in Granby and to move froward, rather than using it as a way to reflect on what has already been done.
We are going to develop programmes for young people through the Granby Workshop, involving them in creative and practical projects.
The main reason why this area was saved from dereliction was because of the work of residents, who worked to save the area through many different practical actions, like painting empty houses, organizing open street markets.They did things in a very creative way, DIY (Do It Yourself). So the workshop is a way to sustain and to build on that culture.
The Granby area has got the highest rate of child poverty in Liverpool and is one of the most deprived areas in the UK.
What kind of programmes are you going to develop for young people through the Workshop?
Programmes involving youth aged 13-18 in doing creative things in practical ways, applying creativity and design to their neighborhood and their life in a very real way, which is very different from how education happens in this country where school is based on a very abstract process.
You use a collaborative approach, which is also one of the reasons you have been shortlisted for the Turner Prize...
We believe in a broader involvement by lots of different people that leads to better results.
I was in the pact, an agreement which involves people who work across different disciplines. It also means involving lots of people who have a stake in the project and hopefully in a meaningful way and sometimes involving people in practical things like physical construction, as well as co-developing and developing ideas and projects with them.
The very interesting thing about the work in Granby is that it is developed beyond client and designer relationship. It is much more messy and collaborative
We have also built very good relationships with the inhabitants of the area through the project.
What is your main focus?
Our main focus is to to build out of the direct action that was initiated through the residents of the area, but also something we really believe in is practice, this being a socially engaged system of people who can get their hands dirty.
That is the spirit and the attitude that we hope the workshop can help support in that area amongst young people.
What kind of products do you make?
We make products in a way that is continuous, rewarding and enjoyable and does not feel like an assembly line.
Our first range of products is a set of handmade features, originally designed for refurbished homes in Granby: from fabric prints and mantelpieces to tiles, lamps, tables and door knobs.
What is important for us is to have in the Turner Prize exhibition some products that are priced based on how much it costs to produce them rather than based on some kind of abstract or symbolic value that is determined by the art market. Our approach is very transparent.
At what point is the refurbishing of Granby?
Now 5 houses that we have been refurbishing with the community land trust have been completed and the next five are under construction. There are also 2 houses that were in very bad condition and it was uneconomical to turn them back into houses, so the project, together with the Community Land Trust, is to turn them into winter gardens for the residents.
As a result of the battle being won by the Community Land Trust to save houses other housing associations are investing in the area to save and refurbish houses, so there are another 90 houses in the process of being refurbished.
What do you think about public art being nominated to the Turner Prize?
I think it is a very good thing that this community-based work can be recognized in that type of platform and that boundaries between disciplines are able to be blurry areas.
It is a very good thing beyond us and our project because it helps give recognition to lots of different ways of working within the field of design, art and architecture and it helps undo this culture where the art world is synonym of the up market and that is the most interesting thing that is happening in the art world.
Cover photo: Assemble's Showroom at the Turner Prize Exhibition, Tramway, Glasgow
First photo gallery: © Granby Workshop/Assemble unless otherwise noted
1. Pressed Terracotta . Photo by Ben Quinton Assemble Liverpool
2. Marbled Light Shades
3. Inventory of Handles Square
4. Sawdust Ceramics
5. Sawdust Ceramics
6. Granby Workshop Furniture
7. Granby Rock Trivet
8. Granby Rock Mantelpiece
9. Block Printed Fabric Herringbone Print
10. Block Printed Fabric Brick Print
11. Sawdust Ceramics Photo by Ben Quinton
Second photo gallery: Assemble's Showroom for Granby Workshop at Tramway, Glasgow.
Last photo: Three members of the collective 'Assemble' (L-R) Lewis Jones, Amica Dall, Fran Edgerley pose for a picture in their 'A Showroom for Granby Workshop' during a photo call for the 2015 Turner Prize short list nominations announcement at The Tramway art space in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 30, 2015. ©Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images.