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Feature article
Profile House external façade of Victorian ash timber. Photograph: Peter Bennetts

Profile: Fieldwork + Assemble + Local Peoples

WORDS BY Vlad Doudakliev

“The best way to influence positive change, is to expose people to good ideas” – Joachim ‘Quino’ Holland

I step into the lobby of a Roseneath Street office and a pallet of the magazine Assemble Papers greets me awaiting distribution. I hear lively conversation upstairs – I must be in the right place.

I am here to meet Ben Keck and Joachim ‘Quino’ Holland; Founders and Directors of Fieldwork, along with sister company Assemble and the aforementioned magazine (both with Giuseppe Demaio – who is also the Founder and Director of Local Peoples, the communications and branding member of the Assemble family).

The three Assemble Directors came together to form a business on the impetus provided from their experience living overseas in apartment cities. Returning to Melbourne, they recognised that ‘in terms of a sophisticated apartment market, Melbourne had a long way to go’.

This driver, coupled with a self-evident passion for the city and extensive project experience in the multi-residential sector coalesced into a collaborative effort to tackle the opportunities they identified in that market, leading to the formation of Assemble, a residential property development company.

An ethos of sustainable, small-footprint living arose, and over time the partnership realised that collaboration with like-minded developers was more conducive to achieving results than eking out the demonstrably treacherous path alone.

The architectural practice, Fieldwork, followed a few years later with the focus to build on their social ideals and to proliferate beyond the one sector of the industry. Tapping their own experience and energy in tandem with passionate colleagues and enterprising clients, they began to consolidate their position in the professional landscape of Melbourne.

The concept of small-footprint living is not a new one, but certainly the particular model they employ situates the procurement, concept, design, communication and realisation of these projects squarely within their hands – a favourable position. Aligned with the brand of advocacy and responsibility echoed by Jeremy Till’s call-to-arms at the 2015 National Conference – ‘architects need to combat the outsourcing of design stages’.

The multidisciplinary team that makes up Assemble/Fieldwork/Local Peoples allows them to build a narrative in a tight feedback loop, taking an approach that allows for creativity and problem-solving through design, yet is exceptionally pragmatic, collaborating across architecture, web, media, publication, communications, finance and development. While some architects see the developer as an enemy, Ben and Quino reject this position.


Garden Pavilion external render.


Engawa House internal and external transition.

Photograph: Peter Bennetts

Split View House under construction.

Photograph: BLOXAS

The companies and publication form a multi-layered oeuvre that allows them to describe their key philosophies of ethical, sustainable, community-based and small footprint living in simultaneous broad focus. Based on Quino’s descriptions of their current projects, it would appear at this stage that this is a successful marriage. He reiterates that fostering a genuine community is the goal, and explains that this end result hinges heavily on the client and developer engaging the narrative. The investment he and Ben make in educating all involved parties to the benefits of triple bottom line development demonstrates their foresight and positive shaping of a changing market.

In architectural terms their work has an aesthetic that draws upon first principles; materials are expressed honestly, their junctions are clean and no more than three materials appear to meet at any point. Planning and sectional hierarchies are provident and at times subvert the typical apartment loading approach in favour of community spaces.

At this stage, Fieldwork has projects in various stages, including several development applications across Melbourne, two projects under construction and many more going to site soon. The coming months will be ripe with superlative manifestations of their small-footprint living philosophy.

It is to be expected then, that Ben and Quino have a plan for the future. The end of 2015 will see them actively expand the mandate of Fieldwork beyond the multi-residential sector, and the first Assemble development will take shape in Clifton Hill.