How architect and design studio Assemble scooped the Turner Prize

A look at the housing regeneration project, which spawned the cottage industry Granby Workshop and a showroom at the Turner Prize exhibition where visitors can pre-order first edition products.

A Showroom for Granby Workshop , Turner Prize Exhibition 2015
A Showroom for Granby Workshop , Turner Prize Exhibition 2015

Multi-disciplinary social design practice Assemble has won the Turner Prize for a housing regeneration and community engagement project in Toxteth, Liverpool, which saw ten houses overhauled.

Assemble is the first collective and more significantly the first non-artist to win the prize since it began in 1984.

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A Showroom for Granby Workshop , Turner Prize Exhibition 2015

The 18-strong collective was awarded the £25,000 prize by musician Kim Gordon as part of a live broadcast last night.

The Battle and legacy of Granby Four Streets

The Granby Four Streets project focuses on terraced houses in Toxteth, originally built in around 1900 for artisan workers.

Many residents had moved out after 1981, when the area was marked for redevelopment and scheduled to be torn down, but other residents fought demolition plans and in the last ten years have kept the streets clean, planted shrubs, painted empty houses, organised a popular monthly market and founded a Community Land Trust.

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A Showroom for Granby Workshop , Turner Prize Exhibition 2015

It is with the Granby Four Streets CLT team and neighbourhood investment organisation Steinbeck Studio that Assemble has worked on what it calls “a sustainable and incremental vision for the area”, building on the work the residents had already done.

Furthering community engagement

Assemble has refurbished houses, public spaces and created new work and enterprise opportunities. Strategically this was done by recognising the area’s architectural and cultural heritage, getting the public involved, offering training and employment and “nurturing the DIY spirit that defines the four streets,” according to the practice.

A refurbished Granby house
A refurbished Granby house

As many of the houses had their features stripped out by the council and because there were damaged and derelict houses Assemble set up the Granby Workshop, a cottage industry for making fittings such as door handles and fireplaces at low cost to refurbish the houses. It is staffed by local residents, artists and craftspeople.

Some of the solutions are very low-tech, such as firing ceramics in a barbeque, or making hand printed fabrics and hand-painted tiles.

A Showroom for Granby Workshop

At the Turner Prize exhibition, which this year is being held at Tramway, Glasgow, Assemble used its nomination to launch the Granby Workshop by creating a showroom installation in the gallery.

Within it are examples of the crafts and a record of the work undertaken by the Granby Workshop.

Granby Workshop @ Turner Prize Exhibition 2015
A Showroom for Granby Workshop , Turner Prize Exhibition 2015

The piece, A Showroom for Granby Workshop, also contains wall-mounted photographs and iPad terminals showing how the project progressed.

By having the showroom at the exhibition, Assemble has allowed people to pre-order first edition products and support ongoing rebuilding in the area.

Assemble’s Lewis Jones says: “All profits go back to Granby and support a programme engaging local young people in creative, practical projects in their neighbourhood.”

What comes out of the Granby Workshop?

Block Printed Fabric Chair

Wood block printed fabrics are created by using wood offcuts from the workshop inked up with a roller.

Cut Out Tiles 2

One off ceramic tiles are made from collaged ceramic decals.

Granby Rock Lamp 1

“Granby Rock” is made from construction waste produced when Granby houses are being refurbished. Red and yellow brick, slate and stone are cast with sand and pigment before being ground and polished, to create decorative surfaces. Fireplaces, bookends, planters, desklamps, trivets and tables have been cast.

Fired Furniture 2

Furniture has been made from burned and turned timber by shaping legs on a lathe and burning them with a blow torch. They are then fixed to pale poplar slabs with a through tenon joint.

Marbled Light shades 8

Paper marbling techniques have been applied to home furnishings including lampshades and tables.


Pressed terracotta lampshades are comprised of torn strips of stained terracotta clay, which when fired gives a smooth external surface and an undulating interior.

GW_Sawdust Ceramics 162

Smoke-fired cabinet handles, light-pulls and burnished clay knobs have been filled with sawdust, wrapped in tin foil and baked in a barbecue for 12 hours giving a broad range of surface patterns, which has been accentuated by adding banana skins and pine needles.


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