Features / Here 2016

How I Got Here: Joe Halligan, co-founder of architecture and art collective Assemble


Michael Driver

In the run up to It’s Nice That’s annual symposium, Here 2016, we’ll be introducing each speaker who will appear at the event. We have asked each of them to share an early piece of work and a recent project, to reflect on how they’ve progressed between the two.

As one of the 18 members that founded architecture, art and design collective Assemble in 2010, Joe Halligan has overseen projects including, The Brutalist Playground with Simon Terril at the Royal Institute of British Architecture, a travelling exhibition for Italian and Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi and a new Allegory of Good and Bad Governance for the city of Vancouver with Daniel Clarke.

Last year Assemble was awarded the Turner Prize for the ambitious Granby Four Streets initiative which saw the revival of a cluster of derelict houses in Liverpool and it’s a project Joe continues to work on with the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust. Assemble was the first collective to win the prestigious prize, as well as being the youngest. The collective seeks to connect people and places, and through their collaborative working process they actively encourage public involvement in the realisation of their projects.


Photograph by Lewis Jones

Cineroleum (Summer 2010)

What is the work?
A self build cinema in a petrol station.

Why was it created?
There was a general feeling in the group that people wanted to “do something.” Temporary projects felt like a good way for recently graduated architecture students to get designing and building things on their own.

What did you learn while doing it?
Lots of things, but most importantly we started to explore how to work collaboratively. Assemble was a product of this project.

What do you think of it now?
It’s still our best project.

How does it relate to your current work?
Almost everyone involved in the first project still has an input in the office today and I think it really was a prototype for how we work now. Many of the ideas that we explored are still relevant for us – ideas around making and seeing value in things that often get forgotten.


10 Houses for Cairns Street (Ongoing)

What is the work?
We are working with the local resident group the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust, to rebuild of ten houses on Cairns Street, Liverpool.

Why was it created?
A group of local residents clubbed together to actively change the environment in which they lived. They took ownership of their local area, which had been neglected by others for decades. They cleared and planted the streets, painted the derelict houses and set up a street market. They formed a community land trust and then asked us if we would help them to rebuild ten houses in the area.

What would you tell your younger self about this work?
Clients are really important. The Community Land Trust in Granby are really inspiring people. They took direct action and changed the environment in which they lived against all odds. Working with people like this is always going to be great. Good clients make good projects.

As well as Assemble, Here 2016 speakers include artist Bob and Roberta Smith, design director of the New York Times Magazine Gail Bichler, and visual artist Yolanda Domínguez.

We will also be welcoming creative director at MTV Richard Turley, illustrator Malika Favre and Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, art director and editor-in-chief of Apartamento magazine.