Assistant Professor-in Residence,
Rhode Island School of Design

2019-2021 Wortham Fellow, Rice Architecture
M.S. Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices ‘19, Columbia University GSAPP
Registered architect, ARBV 19420, Australia
M.Arch, University of Melbourne
Chronic cartoonist and writer
[still loading]
Architecture is the largest file format you know. A building is slow information. It caches and organizes material, aesthetic, and infrastructural forces over time. It stores environmental time and material properties, it draws together labor and building systems, it absorbs legal ordinances and everyday occupation. In aggregate, the city might be seen as a real-time database layered with building types and technologies, property lines, planning decisions, and (human and non-human) stories at every scale.

My work explores architecture as heavy information — a socio-technical relation between abstraction and reality. Drawings, models, maps, diagrams, renderings, and even evidentiary and instructional formats, all slip between exactitude and ambiguity. Architectural media are imperfect records, inventories, and actors of small-p politics.

How do these worlds overlap? Who/what gets to be visible or legible, and who/what is excluded from the frame? What counter-practices and alternative formats exist?
Knowledge formats are always subjective and partial. I am interested in how architecture’s most banal drawings, spaces, and notation systems are already information-rich and operative in the world.

Elevating graphics over statistics, I look to make those more invisible dimensions and politics of space visible, through multiscalar research, design, and narrative.

Exhibition, forthcoming
Planetary Home Improvement: From Just-in-time to Geological Time
VI PER Gallery, Prague, forthcoming December 2021
Exhibition and research project in progress.

The home improvement store is a geological site on demand. Rockwool, Sheetrock, Quikrete Stucco. Materials are processed into products, packaged, stockpiled, stacked, and sold across global DIY supply-chains, from Home Depot to Bauhaus and OBI. Basalt, gypsum, limestone. Material economies are severed from mineral entanglements with millennia of rock, fossil, plant, and stone. It takes 1 day to install drywall; it takes 299 million years to form gypsum.

What planetary urgencies, temporalities and extractions undergird products of just-in-time geology? Rewriting shelf life and collapsing the ancient and the instant, this research project takes stock of the terrestrial home via the big-box DIY store, as the home improvement industry continues to boom and propagate rocks in anthropo-convenient forms. The store is the modern quarry. This exhibition examines the geological life of product accumulation, installation, and instruction through both physical and digital gallery artifacts. If the Eames’s Powers of Ten organized the universe by relative scale, Planetary Home Improvement redesignates its earthly substrates by relative temporality—from the planet to the point of sale.

Team: Christine Giorgio, Amelyn Ng, Gabriel Vergara, with Nathan Davis
Grad assistants: Remi Qiu, Ellie Cody, Sarah Chriss, Carrie Li

Images produced collectively, more to come

Print & online
press -npr 21.02.08
Stay-at-home Stress: A spatial survey of low-income households in Houston’s Fifth Ward during COVID-19
Grant funded by Rice  COVID Research Fund, 2020
COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have disproportionately disrupted the domestic lives of Houston households, particularly low-income families with children. This pilot study of sixteen qualitative interviews identifies immediate spatial and social impacts on their daily home life during and after the stay-at-home order period.

Taking a local approach, the project collaborated with the Center for Urban Transformation (CUT) to connect with families in Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward. The spatial survey and research hopes to provide local organizations, community homebuilders, and broader research community with qualitative feedback on Fifth Ward residents’ existing home conditions, site concerns, and domestic experiences under COVID-19 circumstances.

Related work:

link - storymap
link - webmap
link - THEA
press - Urban Edge
Uneven Runoff
Grant funded by the Diluvial Houston Initiative (Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funding), Rice University, 2020-21
Uneven Runoff seeks to investigate the uneven geographies of industrial pollution and flood risk in Harris County. The research project uses GIS and open-source urban data to map relations between former and current industrial sites and Houston’s most flood-vulnerable neighborhoods.

Map layers include industrial parcels, impervious surface density, drainage types, FEMA floodplains vs Hurricane Harvey modeled flood extents, water wells, and type and volume of chemical releases to waterways since 1987. These datasets are visualized and combined in an interactive public webmap for communities and local organizations to explore (typically opaque) industrial data in one’s own neighborhood.

This project is the collective research effort of Rae Atkinson, Mike Wissner, and myself (combining backgrounds in data science, geography and architecture), in partnership with local organization Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) and Rice University’s Spatial Studies Lab.

Exhibition & video installation
Installation, Rice Architecture, January 2021
Screenspace is a temporary installation for collective weather-watching. It re-interprets James Turrell’s climate-ambivalent Skyspace in Houston, Texas, for more turbulent skies. Unlike Turrell’s approach to climate (an authored, timeless, swatch of sky), our prevalent sky-monitoring aesthetic is that of the infrared satellite image. Mediated by screens and monitors, we watch for color variations in the rainbow spectrum, hoping never to see that ominous swirl.

In Screenspace, a 16:9 aspect-ratio blackout fabric quilt is designed to be suspended in Jury Hall. Unlight Turrell’s taut projection soffit, this slightly baggy screen it may be the first to acknowledge gravity. Faux berm recliners take variable configurations under this projection canopy, and can be wheeled outside in good weather. These hollow plug-and-play berms look suspiciously like Turrell’s manicured grass mounds surrounding his Skyspaces. Sunrise and Sunset screenings at this pavilion include timeless sky screensavers, occasionally interrupted by real-time weather channels and infrared textures describing Houston’s historical hurricane events.

Related publications:

Screenspace, Part2
Original installation intent
Screenspace was originally meant to be performed inside an actual Skyspace. In early 2020, I pitched a proposal to the committee managing the Twilight Epiphany Skyspace on Rice Campus, to temporarily unfold this extra-large blackout fabric across the void from the viewing gallery above. The 16:9 cutout in the middle of the quilt would temporarily reformat Turrell’s symmetrical square sky as a rectangular screen.

The proposal was promptly rejected, on the grounds that “James Turrell expressly forbids any physical intervention in the Skyspace. It is part of our legal agreement with the artist that Rice not modify or alter the artwork itself in any way, even temporarily.” This rejection revealed a fascinating insight into the artist’s absolute ownership over the space—including aesthetic rights to a piece of Houston sky. This graphic sequence shows what the forbidden act of reformatting Turrell’s sky would have looked like.

Related projects:

© 2022 Amelyn Ng