The basement I : Portrait of the basement of 15 west at RISD

Film 00;05;55, 2008

What are the invisible places in our routine lives? I believe sometimes it may exist in the basement of our buildings. In the structure of architecture, basements are known to provide the foundation and the inner workings of a building. But I find that also, basements are a place where I can ask myself, what is visible and what is invisible. Specifically, I am interested in the structure known as 15 West at RISD. This is because the basement at 15 West represents in many ways, the history of the building. It was originally the Hospital Trust Bank before it became the Fleet RISD library and student housing. Thus, it still keeps traces of the original use which was that of a bank. Seeing these historical traces, I see an amazing amount of contrast existing in the underground. It is a place in which people simultaneously keep things that are invaluable and things that are unvalued.

What does it keep? What are these possessions? First of all, it is the gut and base of the building. It houses chemicals, plumbing, complicated pipes and tremendously huge machines which contribute to the efficient running of the building. Secondly, it serves the purpose of saving and housing objects and things that are not currently useful or not necessary for the public to engage with in use of the building. The third use it houses is that of three bank vaults. One of them keeps valuable film and the largest one houses a jewelry vault. Furthermore, through some previous research, I know that here exists the custodian’s office. Technically, their rooms are not only in the basement of 15 West, but also in the basements of other buildings at RISD. For this reason, I believe that it is dramatically ironic and a point of huge contrast. For here, in the basement of this building and many buildings, that which is valuable is kept hidden and simultaneously, that which is unvalued sits curiously close by.

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the basement from moonjung jang on Vimeo.