Design / Architecture / Urbanism / Research by Despo Thoma.

local matter[s] / GSAPP



local matter[s]

Divergent Narratives Studio
with Nicki Gitlin, Zhuoran Zhao and Shiwani Pol
Columbia GSAPP
New York, Fall 2015


The Hudson Valley was a local economy of materials in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. However, the industrial revolution created a shift in the economy, and created disparities in infrastructure, development, and job opportunities. These disparities have two effects on people – people either migrate in search of opportunities or are stuck in a place with limited choices.

We see these effects in Newburgh where people are stuck and do not have social mobility. The goal of Local Matter[s] is to revive the local economy of materials in the Valley and provide social mobility through job training to people affected by disparities in the region.  Newburgh becomes a destination for innovation and technology of materials, through its decaying historic fabric and its place in the construction and materials trades in past centuries.


Local Matter[s] will provide jobs and skills using research, innovation and education. This new system will link materials sources, processing sites, historic districts, and building supply stores with educational and training workshops, in the form a new Materials Lab.

The Materials Lab is the place where locals become experts on materials and is the resource of knowledge for the Hudson Valley. The Materials Lab is divided in 3 parts. Surrounding a restoredhistoric house are four main workshops to complement the common materials of the historic sites in Newburgh and of the Hudson Valley.