Last night, the London-based architecture and design collective Assemble was awarded the U.K.’s most prestigious art prize. It’s the first time that the Turner Prize, now in its 31st year, has gone to a group of designers, rather than an individual or pair.
Awarding the prize to the design collective also marks significant shift toward more accessible artwork for the Turner Prize, which has been criticized in recent years for championing esoteric or overly theoretical artwork. Assemble’s communal ethos make them more inclusive compared with past winners.
The prize was awarded for Assemble’s Granby Four Streets project, which involves renovating derelict Victorian-era houses in a working-class neighborhood in Liverpool. The collective recruits young residents to work on site with a goal of giving them job skills while at the same time establishing new businesses in the area. The region has suffered from decades of neglect and mismanagement. The project is designed to reinstate a sense of community among residents.
Since the group was founded in 2010, Assemble has become known for altruistic projects that foster a similar sense of community. After starting out creating smaller pop-up studios from materials like demolition waste, the collective has since expanded to larger, more permanent spaces. Its 2011 project, Folly for Flyover transformed an unused overpass into an event space, and last year the project Yardhouse turned a derelict shed into affordable artist studios.
In a statement the prize jury says, “[Assemble] draw on long traditions of artistic and collective initiatives that experiment in art, design and architecture. In doing so they offer alternative models to how societies can work.”