I'm leaning on a building typology which is as yet un-mythologized to reveal problems that exist in the conversation on the ‘real’ that is the desired domain of the architect. Of course, what we do in a way is test our fictions in reality and this becomes something strange in the post-machinic and, I think, post-electronic way we are beginning to see the much of the built environment.
I’m trying to design a data center out of situated knowledge and situated views. Grounded in human experience, watching the films, enjoying the fiction. We start with the screen, and the drive-by - this is how we experience the post-human: technological mediation, I suppose, but also in a state of distraction, enhanced by the comfort in knowing the subject is beyond anything but expertise.
The New Urbanist site is a useful simulacrum for this project. It’s around the corner, but both yours and someone else’s, somewhere else. The simulated space of the town center isn’t so simple - it also dissimulates programme and the concealment of the data center is something associated to the building type; understood through the screen, the drive-by and, in an urban setting, re-purposing of existing buildings. The preservation of the facade is not shown to be cynical or optimistic, but is, in fact, both. Cynical because of its camouflage and optimistic because of its economics. See photographs of data centers - consistently disembodied aerial view. And NSA - only photo that existed until Snowden affair. See also the conflation of interior and exterior shot.
Entering on the ground floor into the 2nd of the three floors of the building, the air plenum. We walk first through the lobby with timber floors and hand-finished walls. It acts as the security buffer between the internal spaces of air and data and the street. The air plenum is open plan, for maximum freedom of movement for the air, though it is punctuated by pipes carrying cold air down to the server floor below and cold water up to the penthouse. It is almost unbearably warm - like a hot summer day on a street in New Jersey.
From there, we take the elevator or stairs down to the server floor. This is a striated space of cold and hot airs. It is also most clearly the space for the specialist. Yet the ambiguous poché points to an experiential problem of understanding the entire building as architecture - that is, the architecture alters the relationship of the person to the building vis a vis that which makes it simply inhabitable. This building is already inhabitable by function of the operating parameters of the equipment. Hard drives are usually only rated to 55 deg C, after which they are prone to failure. Temperatures below 15 deg C will also result in increased failures.
The penthouse of the building. In fact, as you can see in the section, the penthouse also becomes the hidden external manifestation of the project as normative but visually over-scaled (though in fact this is due to volume requirements) air intakes. The hurricane strength louvers are no more out of place in the loading bay of the town center than they are in an out of town industrial park. Inside is a place totally foreign to the human. As the air passes through filters, misting rooms and fan rooms its relation to breathing is lost as it gains relevance to the servers below. The manager of the facility feels out of place, not least because there is a feeling he is disturbing the finely tuned system.
with Michael Young