Scarcity in practice: Assemble and sugarhouse studios

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
If scarcity is the disjunction between wants/ambitions and the resources at hand, our work has been a process of prioritizing things, or the process of finding alternative means to fulfil ambitions. It is worth saying that what brought us together to work independently and in an undefined/continuously evolving way [as Assemble, a design and architecture collective], was our previous experience working in offices. The scarcity could be described as the lack of integrated design, or an understanding of how a task relates to the overall project ambition; how a CAD drawing relates to the act of casting concrete. As our practice grows, more ‘scarcities’ creep up, such as financial resources in relation to growing ambition, our experience in relation to a desire to maintain a democratic management, etc... Sometimes the realization of the ‘scarcity’ in a project, or in a situation, is what frames subsequent problem solving. Ignoring the ‘scarcity’, i.e. not taking a step back, has always had a detrimental effect on the work – for example not working out the budget/sustainability of a thing; relying too much on the power of on-site instinct; or vice versa. Similarly allowing the scarcity to lead the design has produced unexpected results. For Cineroleum for example, the desire to recreate the luxury of the picture palace combined with the need to find the cheapest, most durable materials. Similarly much consideration was invested into the details of the foyer, as well as the programming of the films – from popcorn holders to staff uniforms, car noise friendly films, everything was important. Not to mention the importance of making profit on the bar, as a way of covering our overheads.
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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