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[Herald Design Forum] Changing old neighborhoods with new thinking

While the construction of a building or a house may be a familiar concept, establishment of a neighborhood or a community is a relatively new notion.

Assemble is a London-based multidisciplinary collective that builds neighborhoods, responding to the actual needs of the community. More than just renovating a building, it rejuvenates the whole area, working across the realms of architecture, design and art.

Maria Lisogorskaya, one of the founding members of Assemble, took the podium at the 2019 Herald Design Forum on Thursday at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, giving a speech titled “Work, Play, Eat. 9 Years of Assemble.” 

Maria Lisogorskaya (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Maria Lisogorskaya (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“(We started the work) because we wanted to have immediate effects on the environment, and to make changes. That was the initial trigger. (Over the years), it has evolved into something else,” she said.

Lisogorskaya shared the studio’s experience with the Granby Four Streets project, one of the most famous project led by the collective. The ongoing project was the winner of the prestigious Turner Prize in 2015.

The community-led project was about rebuilding the Granby area, a neighborhood in Liverpool, which had been abandoned and neglected for a long time. The collective focused on rebuilding the area into a multipurpose district suitable for living, leisure, commerce and more.

“When we met (the residents in 2012), they wanted us to help with the rejuvenation with small-scale expansion,” she recounted. “There were active residents who wanted to do the work themselves.”

Through the project, 10 renovated houses, some shops and art studio Granby Workshop were set up.

One of the establishments that the project gave birth to is the Granby Winter Garden that was finished in March. The complex is a seasonal garden complex that spans between two houses consisting of an actual garden, events space and artist residence.

A recent project that Assemble has been involved with is the Material Institute project in New Orleans, where the collective has joined hands with the local community to transform an old industrial property into a fashion hub.

Material Institute, established in 2016, is a learning center and design studio for fashion. The school is connected with the famed Mardi Gras parade, showcasing creations that are explanatory of the New Orleans history at the parade event.

“The (New Orleans) community came to us (which is quite) rare. They were trying to do something different,” she recounted. “We were just asking questions, trying to understand, and listen in supportive ways. It was just another human-to-human interaction.”

By Im Eun-byel (