D.E.P.O.T. /
Gross Domestic Practices

September 6 - 22, 2023
BEB Gallery, RISD Architecture
Providence RI

Public talk & closing reception September 21, 2023

Supported by RISD Architecture Design Research Seed Fund
The built environment is a site of material exchange;  a potential urban mine. Brick, stone, wood, metal, and even excavated soil on construction and demolition (C&D) sites are literally matter out of place — situated somewhere between building and debris, awaiting future harvest.

C&D waste is in fact routinely salvaged, transported, sorted, cleaned, labeled, stored, and recombined for future recirculation. Such laborious local practices exceed the scopes and budgets of construction, yet are crucial in taking stock of an industry overwhelmed by extraction.

Construction has long been known as a growth industry, where material expenditure is geared towards ever greater Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We offer another definition: gross domestic practices (gdp), a total-practice approach that recognizes building maintenance, waste work, eco-services, social relations, and the material limits of growth. gdp stands for a post-extraction world where product is not the key economic driver, but rather, local processes that support the continual unmaking and remaking of the built environment.

A collaboration between Amelyn Ng, Gabriel Vergara and Christine Giorgio. Past related projects include Planetary Home Improvement. Exhibition photos by Tam Stockton.

Canadian Centre for Architecture (online) - full text link

Venice Biennale 2023 Luxembourg Pavilion - link
File Name: Unsettling the Ground
Logged by: Amelyn Ng

Invited research contribution to "Down to Earth": Luxembourg Pavilion, 18th Venice Biennale 2023
“A perverted material library by Lev Bratishenko, Francelle Cane, Anastasia Kubrak, Jane Mah Hutton, Marija Marić, Amelyn Ng, Bethany Rigby, and Fred Scharmen.”

How to: mind the moon is the result of a 2-week research workshop organized by the Luxembourg Pavilion (curated by Francelle Cane and Marija Marić) with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (Lev Bratishenko). (I was one of five researchers invited to look at the moon’s materialities critically, against the grain of space extraction.) The outcome of the workshop — a material library — was exhibited as part of the exhibition Down to Earth at the 2023 Luxembourg Pavilion in Sale d’Armi, Arsenale di Venezia for the 18th Venice Biennale.

The material library “offers another way of reading five lunar materials: regolith, lunar dust, solar wind, seconal sodium, and aluminium. A perversion of the format of a material sample and datasheet—technical documents commonly used in material science to describe chemical and mechanical properties of materials—the workshop outlines another kind of material library, that which goes beyond the perceived scientific neutrality of materials. Instead, it frames the political, social, environmental, and cultural conditions of materials, both as a physical matter and a form of fiction.” (CCA)

Contribution: Lunar Dust entry & ‘Dust Spill’ sample
Photo 1 by Anita Cariolaro
Photos 2,3,4,5 by Antoine Espinasseau

Exhibition and research project
link - gallery
link - website
Planetary Home Improvement: From Just-in-time to Geological Time
VI PER Gallery, Prague
December 17, 2021 — February 2, 2022

Partially funded by the 2021-22 RISD Professional Development Fund
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.

The exhibition includes a stratigraphic stack wall of reused local materials, a geological soundscape, deep section drawings, a tabletop palindrome How-to video, DIY unbuilding instruction sheets, and a slow-scrolling website.

Co-designers: Christine Giorgio, Amelyn Ng, Gabriel Vergara
Collaborating composer: Nathan Davis
Graduate assistants: Remi Qiu, Ellie Cody, Sarah Chriss, Carrie Li

Full credits here

Research project
Open-Air Education, research project, RISD, WIP

Funded by the RISD 2050 Fund AY22-23 and PDF AY23-24.
This pilot project explores the future of open-air arts education at RISD, through the research and design of the outdoor classroom. Looking beyond makeshift tents and mechanical ventilators that mark our pandemic era, it aims to stoke the architectural imagination for transitioning into a future where healthy studio environments, outdoor pedagogies, and collective rights to air and shade become essential to the academic experience.

This project connects histories and futures of open-air architecture in regions such as New England, France, and the Netherlands, as well as from around the world. Instead of claiming to be exhaustive or  canonical in any way, this tapestry acts more like a conversation starter: to aid the RISD community in imagining possibilities for a
more open-air arts education.

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  spatial, social, and environmental impacts on 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:

© 2022 Amelyn Ng