Assemble

Granby Four Streets

Liverpool, UK

2013 -- ongoing

In 2016, I visited Liverpool—a leading port during the Industrial Revolution—to see how the Assemble’s Turner Prize-winning project, Granby Four Streets,has facilitated a civic hub for the local community. As a multi-disciplinary collective, Assemble’s work covers a range of creative fields (architecture, design, and art). Granby Four Streets is one of their most notable and successful creative place-making projects, which led them to win the most prestigious art prize in the UK. The project originated as an effort to address urban degeneration threatening the Toxteth area of Liverpool. Toxteth was once a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood lined with Victorian terraces, but it was torn apart and marginalised by dysfunctional housing policies. 

Levente Polyák (2017) writes: “In the 1980s, Toxteth was a very politicised area, with a conflict between the state, the police and the community, which was exasperated by unemployment problems due to the decline of the industry around the Liverpool area and exploded with the 1981 riots. The development of the area was led by housing associations. ... At that time, housing associations felt that there was no money for them in property refurbishments because of years of low to no investment in properties alongside the loss of subsidies from the Central Government to support less profitable properties and bedroom sizes. Another reason was the construction market being stacked towards new builds because of a raft of incentives including no VAT on new constructions, making demolition and new build a more cheaper and feasible option. This led to a proliferation of new builds, instead of renovations. Housing associations and the City Council thought they could cure the community’s ills, poverty and unemployment by building new homes, and they always saw the Toxteth area as a few streets that stand in their way. This ‘managed decline’ led to a gradual devastation of the area, with 180 houses boarded up, with maybe five people remaining in each street.”[1]

 

The buildings that remain in Granby Street today were saved from demolition by a group of local activists in the 1980s. Even though efforts have been made to manage them, the buildings’ conditions have gradually deteriorated with time as resources to maintain them are scarce. When Granby Four Streets began, many of these buildings were in poor condition. 

 

The success of Granby Four Streets demonstrates how a bottom-up process that has been developed with partnerships between local residents and organisations can drive long-term sustainability and unleash creativity and potential. Spearheaded by the Community Land Trust, together with Assemble, the project has successfully rallied support and investment from the city council and housing association. Assemble and Community Land Trust work hand in hand to renovate and refurbish these properties. After two decades of efforts, they brought the streets to proper conditions and the vacant homes into use as affordable housing—not as commodities, but as homes. 
 

“The most successful thing we’ve done is to work with organisations that we were once in conflict with,” says Michael Simon, who was born and bred on Granby Street. “We’re stitching back together the urban fabric—city council, social landlords, and residents—because we’ve built the relationships.”[2]

 

Aesthetics are central to the project, in addition to working partnerships in the community. Assemble’s design has earned high praises from both the residents and investors. “Their designs were exciting for the community but also for other investors, so we could tap into a grant called Empty Homes with which the government was trying to get people back into their homes,” says Michael Simon, member of the Community Land Trust.

 

On top of that, as a spin-off of the project, Assemble launched the Granby Workshop to produce a range of unique handmade home products, e.g. fireplaces, door knobs, and curtains. The objective of the workshop is to offer residents access to training and employment opportunities and nurturing “resourcefulness and DIY spirit.”

 

The workshop can be seen to have a direct relevance to the social vision of the Arts and Crafts movement in late-19th century England, which largely derived from John Ruskin’s social criticism on dehumanisation of work by Industrial Revolution. Ruskin was disappointed by the negative impact of industrialization, which profoundly changed people’s ways of life (for instance, the declining aesthetic quality of mass-produced machine-made goods and the loss of dignity of workers in division of labour). He advocated that good design—from architecture and furniture to products—should serve to support society's morals and values.[3]

 

In Assemble’s Granby Workshop, all the products are made by the hands of local residents. In this way, it reflects the notion of the Arts and Crafts movement and its heritage. The workshop has become a successful social enterprise. It does not only provide work opportunities that benefit the residents, but also helps them gain confidence in themselves (and in the place where they live) through their acquisition of new skills. 

 

[1] L. Polyák. “Granby Four Streets CLT: From Demolition to Regeneration.” The Cooperative City [online], 2017. https://cooperativecity.org/2017/10/25/granby-four-streets-clt/

 

[2] Nesta. “Gramby Four Streets” [online], 2016. https://www.nesta.org.uk/feature/new-radicals-2016/granby-four-streets/

 

[3] V&A Museum. “Arts and Crafts: An Introduction” [online], 2019. https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/arts-and-crafts-an-introduction

2016年,我訪問了獲透納獎的Assemble在曾經是領導工業革命的港口利物浦與當地社區一起建立和使用的社區中心。Assemble的工作涉及建築、設計和藝術等多個學術領域。Assemble的《格蘭比四條街》(Granby Four Street)是他們最著名和最成功的地方營造項目之一,並以此贏得英國最知名的藝術獎。該項目的起源是為了應對該地區的城市退化問題,該地區曾經是一個充滿活力和多樣化的社區,兩旁是維多利亞時代的排屋,但因失調的房屋政策而被撕裂和邊緣化。

「在80年代,托克斯特區(Toxteth)是一個非常政治化的地區,國家、警察和社區之間經常發生衝突,由於利物浦的工業衰落導致工人失業,令這些問題更為嚴重,並於1981年的爆發騷亂。房屋協會領導了該地區的發展.......當時,房屋協會認為,由於多年來中央政府幾乎沒有投資房地產,甚至沒有獲得中央政府補貼支持利潤較低的房產和居住空間。另外,建築市場因為大量的鼓勵措施包括新建築豁免增值稅,慢慢傾向建造新建築,使拆遷和建造新建築成為更可行的選擇。這導致了大量新的建築物獲建,而不是翻新。房屋協會和市議會認為他們可以通過建造新房屋來解決社區弊病、貧困和失業等問題,將托克斯特區視為阻擋他們去路的障礙。由於管治不善,該地區逐漸遭受破壞,有180所房屋被封,每條街道亦只剩下5人。」(Polyák 2017)

今天格蘭比街剩下的建築物,是由一班社運人士在80年代爭取保留下來的。即使努力地管理,隨著時間的推移,因保護資源稀缺,建築條件逐漸惡化。《格蘭比四條街》開始時,這些建築物已非常殘舊。《格蘭比四條街》的成功,展示了如何通過當地居民和組織之間的互相合作,開發自下而上的流程,推動長期可持續發展,釋放創造力和潛力。該項目由社區土地信託(Community Land Trust)和Assemble共同帶領,成功獲得市議會和房屋協會的支持和投資。Assemble和社區土地信託攜手合作,翻新和改建這些房產。經過二十年的努力,街道狀況已得到明顯改善,殘破的建築已修葺成人們負擔得起的房屋,街道上的房屋不再空置著。

「我們最大的成功是與曾經發生矛盾的組織合作。」在格蘭比街出生並長大的米高西蒙(Michael Simon)說道。「因為建立了這合作關係,我們成功重新連結起城市結構- 市議會、地主和居民 。」(Nesta 2016)

除了合作夥伴關係之外,美學亦是該項目的重心。Assemble的設計得到居民和投資者的讚賞。社區土地信託成員米高西蒙說道:「他們的設計對社區以及其他投資者來說都是令人雀躍的,因此我們可以得到一項名為「空房屋」(Empty House)的資助,政府亦正協助我們重建家園。」 (Polyák2017)

此外,Assemble推出了格蘭比工作坊(Granby Workshop),成為計劃的衍生項目,生產一系列獨特的手工家居產品,例如壁爐、門把和窗簾。工作坊的目的是為居民提供培訓和就業機會,培養「充沛的想像、應變力和DIY精神」。

該工作坊與19世紀藝術與工藝美術運動提出的社會願景是直接相關的,該運動主要源於約翰羅斯金對工業革命去除人性化的社會批評。羅斯金對工業化的負面影響感到失望,工業化使人類的生活方式發生了深刻變化,例如大規模生產的產品使質量下降、勞動分工現象令工人喪失尊嚴等。他倡議利用建築、傢具至產品的良好設計,幫助支撐社會的道德和價值觀。

 

Assemble的格蘭比工作坊,全部產品都由當地居民製作而成。這種方式反映了藝術和手工藝運動及其傳統的概念。該工作坊已成為成功的社會企業,不僅為居民提供工作機會,而且還通過他們學到的製作技讓他們對自己和所居住的地方充滿信心。

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