UK Turner Prize Awarded to Architecture Collective Assemble

The Turner award, a major UK art price, has been awarded to Assemble, a collective known for its architecture and community improvement projects. The news has swept the art world, with critics taking notice of the first time an architecture collective has won in the 31-year history of the prize. It begs the question: What Defines an Artist?


Assembly, 2014. Photo courtesy of Assembly.

For many of us, “Who is an artist” simply isn’t a question we face in our everyday lives. Even as we interact with architecture in the world around us, we might not acknowledge the creators’ intentions behind those spaces. According to Mark Brown in his piece “Urban regenerators Assemble become first ‘non-artists’ to win Turner prize” for Guardian, the collective itself does not claim to be comprised of artists. One Assemble collective member, Anthony Engi-Meacock, said: “It’s just not a conversation we have. I mean what is an artist? There is no answer to it.”

Looking at these events in the media I sense the media engaged in changing attitudes toward the arts. To satisfy my own curiosity about what the award says about the existence of margins between architecture and “art”, I conducted my own survey of the Assemble website. It’s apparent the collective offers much more than traditional building projects. Their CV includes play spaces, performance spaces, and several other interactive (again, play being key) installations. In these examples, Assemble elevates “space” in a thoughtful, meaningful way.

Assemble create spaces that make people think and bring people together, and thoughtfully employ many clever ways of encouraging new behavior in those spaces. Transformation on some level–in thought, in action–is to me the optimal outcome of interacting with any work we may deem as art. In this way, architecture by Assemble proves to be somewhat more accessible, though no less persuasive, than many of the traditionally “prize worthy” art forms.

Congratulations, Assemble, on the work and the award!


 Top Image copyright and courtesy of Sophia Evans.