Assemble Studio has not only challenged the way we build the city (should citizens be coauthors?), the way citizens relate to the city (should people simply use public space and infrastructure as goods of collective property?), but even the way we architects should design it (they are a collective with diverse authorship). But their interrogations go so far as to question the way we educate our children, channeling these interrogations through interventions in the city. The project they have presented for the Biennale, not unlike many others in their portfolio, is a statement about empowering people as authors of their own habitat.
At first glance, this statement may sound radical and revolutionary. But, to tell the truth, 90 per cent of the world’s population are in actual fact authors of the places where they live—we call them slums. One of the biggest failures of the self-built environment is that individual actions, though well-intentioned, cannot guarantee the quality of the whole. This is proof that the scarcest resource in a city is not money but coordination. What makes a substantial difference in Assemble’s approach is that they claim to empower people not so much in the production of residential space as in interventions in and the formation of the public space, amenities, and services a city can offer its inhabitants.
Assemble’s contribution to the debate is that of having empirically tested a new concept of authority—not only in the sense of those who hold power but also of authorship. Dispersed rather than concentrated authority is something that we must pay attention to. Who, then, does the coordinating? That is the next question.