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Birmingham Charrette: Assemble

Assemble proposed modifications to the massing

Volumes are more important than views to town planning, observe Assemble, who propose modifications to the massing; more variety to the street widths; the addition of new public spaces; and either keeping the Madin library or using it as a meanwhile space prior to demolition.

Alice Edgerley, Fran Edgerley and Maria Lisogorskaya, Assemble

Assemble is a design and architecture collective based in London. Its working practice is led by ‘a belief in the importance of addressing the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which spaces are made’. Assemble champions a working practice that is interdependent and collaborative, seeking to ‘actively involve the public both as participants and accomplices in the ongoing realisation of the work’. Much of its work has been self-built by members of the 10-strong collective. Work includes the Cineroleum, the conversion of a derelict petrol station on Clerkenwell Road into a pop-up cinema; pre- and post-London 2012 Olympic Games place-making projects Folly for a Flyover and Sugarhouse Studios; and a children’s playpark in Glasgow.

Assemble team approach

We’re interested in the importance of volume and what spaces mean, rather than [focusing on] views and wayfinding; picking out landmarks isn’t the most important way of experiencing the city. There is a collage of architectural elements on the site – remnants of masterplan after masterplan and each version is ambitious. We thought we could reveal the traces of the schemes in strata in section, and use the slope to add a water feature. Also we don’t think you should shy away from the streets being a variety of widths. We also suggest that the ziggurat [John Madin’s Library of Birmingham] could have a meanwhile use – it could be used as cheap office space for start-up businesses or workshops.

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