Have you ever wondered where your information goes when you save it to "The Cloud"? The answer is within giant data centers. According to reports, Facebook and Google's data centers resemble something from Science Fiction, while some could come straight from a Bond flick. In a new short film named Internet Machine, Filmmaker and Visual artist Timo Arnall takes us where few have been granted access, showing the world what "The Cloud" really is - a massive architectural space with extreme energy demands. To experience the power surging and hear the deafening hum of a data center, check out the trailer above.
One day, Andrew Blum‘s internet stopped working. He called a repair man, who told him that, quite simply, a squirrel had chewed on his internet.
The bank architect’s goal is to create a secure edifice. The bank robber’s? To subvert the edifice. And yet consider their commonality: their interaction with space. Both analyze plans and consider inefficiencies, both inhabit the space much differently than your average spectator. In fact, the Robber’s relationship with space is far more physical, urgent…nuanced. As Mehruss Ahi, a recent graduate from Woodbury University, puts it in his senior thesis: “The Architect is the Bank Robber…and the Bank Robber is the Architect.”
Ahi suggests a Robber-like “spatial hack” of the bank: an identification of its inefficiencies/vulnerabilities/paths of circulation. He also notes the necessity of giving priority to large storage space for goods rather than money (due to “the migration of banking services to the Web”). This new perspective, Ahi argues, will allow architects to design a smarter, more secure bank. The bank of the future.
Ahi’s assertion about the need for physical storage space (as banks turn to the Web), got me thinking. Our world depends less and less on physical storage, and more and more on the bits of information flying through the wires and cables of the internet. Ahi’s theory, while an interesting insight into bank design, is even more powerful when applied to the bank’s modern day equivalent: the Data Center.
Your Macbook Air has come at a price. And I’m not talking about the $1,000 bucks you shelled out to buy it. I’m talking about the cost of lightness. Because the dirty secret of the “Cloud” – that nebulous place where your data goes to live, thus freeing up your technological devices from all that weight – is its very physical counterpart. Data Centers. Giant, whirring, power-guzzling behemoths of data storage – made of cables, servers, routers, tubes, coolers, and wires. As your devices get thinner, the insatiably hungry cloud, the data centers, get thicker. So why are you struggling to picture one in your mind? Why do we have no idea what they look like? What they do? Where they are? Because Data Centers have been hidden away and, although carefully planned, intentionally “undesigned.” The goal is to make the architecture so technologically efficient, that the architecture becomes the machinery, and the machinery the architecture. In the words of author Andrew Blum, Data Centers are “anti-monuments” that ”declare their own unimportance.” But if architecture is the expression of our society’s values and beliefs, then what does this architectural obliteration mean? That we are willfully ignoring the process that creates the data we daily consume. As long as the internet works, who cares where it came from (or at what cost — and there is a considerable cost)? So can design change our alienated relationship to our data? Should it? And if so, how?
Thanks to the New York Post article we noticed that this project Pionen White Mountain, which we featured November 24, 2008, is indeed the WikiLeaks Headquarters. Pionen – White Mountain designed by Albert France-Lanord Architects is housed in a former 1,200 sqm Cold War bunker (originally built as a World War II bunker); an amazing location 30 meters down under the granite rocks of the Vita Berg Park in Stockholm. One of the original founders of WikiLeaks is architect John Young. Sections and more photographs following the break. Update: It seems that the New York Post article was misleading. The Pionen – White Mountain facilities, a Bahnhof computer center, hosts two Wikileaks servers at these facilities and provides power, cooling, and Internet access to the servers.
Architects: Albert France-Lanord Architects Location:Stockholm, Sweden Program: Datacenter Collaborators: Frida Öster and Jonatan Blomgren Geology Consultant: Geosigma AB Construction: Albert France-Lanord Architects Client: Bahnhof AB Construction Area: 1,200 sqm Project year: 2008 Photographs: Åke E:son Lindman