Questions on beginnings, ethics and commonalities.
I think the foundational moments are seeing other people who are like you (non-professionals, young) doing something together. Making it seem possible. There is a European group called Exyst who did self-build projects on Union St in London for a number of years. This is in turn inspired people – some of whom are now members of Assemble – to start trying to start self-initiated projects themselves.
Some people talk about first deciding to do a project at a party. Another group – practice architecture – were also the contemporaries of most members of Assemble and they were probably the inspiration for that conversation.
For me a key moment was going to Rural Studio and seeing the extent of the responsibility and trust given to young students in their capacity to make physical change in the world.
People should be mobile, questioning and social, but we have developed a culture that doesn’t encourage or support either of these. Inequality and racism are rife. I think systemic change is present within individuals within Assemble, but not necessarily within the collective. We operate within certain worlds where we are complicit in – even while being critical of – the status quo.
It depends on who in the practice is managing a project as to whether we even acknowledge such issues, even less try to consider them. Personally it’s something I’ve tried to talk to students about in relation to their negotiation of institutions.
I hope your time volunteering was of interest and more fruitful than your time with me has been.