CLOG is a quarterly publication that explores, from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. This is the third issue of the series, the first issue was centered on the firm Blarke Ingles Group, BIG, and the second issue was about tech giant Apple. In this latest issue, Data Space, CLOG examines the Data Center as typology, and the connection of the virtual and physical worlds and its affect on the built environment.
Every second, 2.8 million emails are sent, 30,000 phrases are Googled, and 600 updates are tweeted. This virtual world is housed in the physical world in Data Centers. We probably all have information stored in the Cloud. How many of us have stopped to consider where or even what is the Cloud.
In The Changing Geography and Architecture of Data, Jonathan Liebenau notes that these Mega-Data Centers are costing up to half a billion dollars each and soon will be absorbing as much as one percent of the worlds energy. I don’t think anyone forecasts internet usage going down in the near future. As the middle classes of developing nations like China and India expand so too will their internet usage.
Not all data centers are big boxes devoid of character, some like the one at Pionen-White Mountain just outside Stockholm, Sweden are right out of the pages of a science fiction thriller or James Bond movie. This particular center, built in a former cold war era anti-atomic shelter located 100 feet below the granite rocks of Vita Berg Park, put humans as the focus. The facility offers simulated daylight, greenhouses, waterfalls and even a 687 gallon saltwater fishtank.
In his submission, Long Lines, Jacob Reidel points out the similarities between the AT&T Long Lines telephone equipment buildings of the past and the data center of today. A quote Reidel references is from a 1969 article in Architectural Record about the AT&T Long Lines building at 33 Thomas in New York, “How to relate such buildings, essentially for non-human use, to human scaled streets and-more difficult- the people on the streets, is a design problem of increasing frequency as mechanization and automation take over major roles in business and industry…” That article could have easily been written about the data centers of today. Not surprisingly many of the old long lines buildings are being repurposed, in part, as data centers. They share many of the same concerns such as security, the ability to stay “live” after a power outage and similar heating and cooling needs.
In casting such a wide net, it is interesting to see the range of submissions selected for publication but maybe even more interesting is what was left on the cutting room floor. This issue is comprised of only 40 submissions and I can only imagine the difficult job the editors had in selecting which articles made it into the publication. True to its mission CLOG slows things down, lets a topic simmer, with different takes from a wide range of perspectives on a topic. After reading CLOG it makes one wish for a discussion group to continue the dialogue…and just maybe that’s the point.
Image #1 from CLOG under Fair Use Doctrine – book review
Image #2 courtesy/permission of New York Architecture