A week long experiment in thinking through building, without models or drawings. How do mainstream cultures of construction impact on our shared experience of the city, and day-to-day possibilities of urban life? What might building together offer as way of thinking differently in or about our environment?

Design is increasing developed through digital technologies which are enabling and powerful, but like any tool, they have limitations. And the tools we use form the way we think. How might we think, design, even behave differently if we had more intimate relationships with materials and the things we make? And how might the place we live be different if we did?


Just as CAD has become second nature, most of us barely spare a thought for the structure construction industry. But the way it operates impacts not only our jobs, but how we live together, how we understand the role of architecture and our responsibility to the world around us. We need to build efficiently and at scale to meet the escalating demands of population and environment, but we also need to build well, to care about tactility, detail and texture, to make buildings that are part of particular geographies.

Many of the future proposals and masterplans for Speirs Locks have been considered at the macro-scale and from a considerable distance (literal and metaphorical). This week will be an exercise in zooming in, holding tight, and working together.


We will spend the week getting muddled up in making – working without drawing or models, and relying on copying, and iterating together, using our bodies for scale and our hands, eyes and each other to check and refine. We will work on understanding what we are doing as closely and personally as possible.

We’ll work to a set brief and within a determined set of techniques to make a fantastic structure, with the ambition that it will communicate some of the care we have collectively invested in it. We are not master carpenters, but fellow-explorers, and aside from making together, we’ll spend the week talking about what we are doing, and how and if it relates to how we learn and practice – is it hopeless romance, or something more useful?


Why is Construction so Backward? James Woudhuysen

The Masons of Djenne, Trevor Marchand

The Wrench, Primo Levi

Building and Dwelling, Richard Sennett

Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses, Micheal Taussig

About the facilitator:

Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art.  Founded in 2010 to undertake a single self-built project, Assemble has since delivered a diverse and award-winning body of work, whilst retaining a democratic and co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales, both making things and making things happen.

Amica Dall, James Binning & Joe Halligan – Assemble

Assisted by:
Lauren Coleman

Group members:
Erin McQuarrie, Teodor Hadirca, Natasha Kurth, Jack Cardno, Ceola Tunstall-Behrens, Harriet Morley, Zoë Pearson, Neil Stevenson

Photo credits:
Jassy Earl