Granby Four Streets

Assemble worked with the Granby Four Streets CLT and Steinbeck Studios to present a new vision for the area of Granby that translates the hard work done by the local community into the refurbishment of housing, public space as well as the provision of new work and enterprise opportunities including the creation of Granby Workshop and the Winter Garden.

Granby Street was once a lively high street at the centre of Liverpool’s most racially and ethnically diverse community. The demolition of all but four of Granby’s streets of Victorian terraces during decades of ‘regeneration’ initiatives saw a once thriving community scattered, and left the remaining ‘Granby Four Streets’ sparsely populated and filled with tinned up houses. The Granby Four Streets project involves the refurbishment of ten houses to be put back into use as family homes for local residents. Alongside this Granby Workshop is a company that employs local residents to make products that can be used in the homes but also sole to a broader public. The workshop is located in Granby. The third project, the Winter Garden is a publicly accessible indoor greenhouse occupying two of the most derelict buildings and will be used as a residency and meeting space. The holistic refurbishment across three projects involves a sensitive response to materiality, making use of scarce resources while developing well made and sustainable homes that reflect the wealth of diversity, time and investment of the local residents that have made the projects possible.

After ten of Granby’s fourteen streets of Victorian terraced houses were demolished we worked with the remaining community on an incremental approach to rebuilding the area, making a network of projects that think on a small scale. The approach is of repair and adaptation, responding to the specific condition of each house. This was combined with a small number of handmade elements that replaced the original features that had all been stripped out of the houses. Value was put back into the houses by installing moments that showed a real investment of time and care such as handmade bathroom tiles, door handles and mantelpieces. We made everything in a workshop set up in a backyard, collecting broken bricks and rubble from the houses to use as the basic material. In this way the empty houses and the street became places of production. We were based in number 48, which was known as the ‘project house’. We lived upstairs with the workshop in the yard, site meetings happening in the front room and in the kitchen a resident ran a café for the builders. Such proximity created a strong relationship with the CLT with the process live, unpredictable and a collective, social activity.

The houses on Cairns Street were built around 1900. Typical of terraced houses of their age, they have solid un-insulated brick walls with timber framed roofs originally clad in slate. Each house has a bay window with sandstone cills, mullions and lintels and a sandstone slab flat roof. The house is built with two primary materials – brick for all vertical loadbearing walls, and timber for floors, roofs and non-load bearing walls. Whilst this brick and timberwork would never have been left exposed by the Victorians, seeing the house stripped back to its skeleton reveals something of the history and provenance of the houses which is particularly compelling given their recent history. Removing the ceiling of the first floor allows you to see the grand way in which the two chimney breasts join in an arch before exiting the roof as a chimney stack. The design approach is necessarily light touch, but seeks to provide a new way of seeing the houses by revealing previously unseen elements. New inserts use robust & economic materials unusual for a domestic setting and each house is furnished with a small number of handmade elements that celebrate the unique character of the area.