The Fabrication of Evidence
Communication runs through emails, knowledge is obtained from search engines and moments are shared on social networks. While we are completely absorbed by this virtual reality, we rarely consider its physical weight. As our devices are getting smaller and lighter there is a “thing” in the world that gets bigger and heavier: the Data Center. We don’t know what they are, where they are placed and how they operate. The thesis aims to give an answer to this questions by exploring the tangible space of data and by defining a new emerging typology.
The project is a direct manifestation of the basic needs of security and temperature control required by Data Centers. The building becomes a protective fence itself, a squared frame that borders a portion of space. Between its walls there are series of servers that are internally flooded by a water cooling system, reaching a temperature of 85°C. The high waste thermal production is then collected and pushed, through a urban “floor heating” system, at the center of the framed space. The exterior temperature will raise to a maximum of 35°C, creating a new climatic landscape.
The result is a new typological definition that is mainly composed of two parts. One, the premise, is the building, that contains and provide basic infrastructure for the servers to operate. The other, the consequence, is the surreal climatic landscape, a public space where is possible to feel in a tangible way the immaterial production of the servers through temperature and humidity.
The modular division of the building allows to scale and stretch the original 630x630m prototype to fit different contexts. On a global scale are spotted 3 sites to test its potentiality: Detroit (Michigan,USA), Oslo (Norway) and Anshan (China). The programmatical value of the Data Center interior changes according of what each context needs the most. In Detroit it becomes a tropical forest, in Oslo a public bath and in Anshan a platform for public dancers.
Who influences you graphically?
I think there are several and different inputs that usually shape my work. I’m extremely interested in everything that is visual. Movies, paintings and illustrations built up an aesthetic vocabulary that I subconsciously use to design and conceive a project. For this particular work I’ve been strongly influenced by the drawings of DOGMA and Diploma 14 Unit at the AA. The photographs of Bas Princen, Andreas Gursky and Nadav Kander were extremely relevant as well.
What defined the format of the book?
The book was not conceived as a showcase for the project but instead as a collection of essays, thoughts and images. The final result is something more similar to a magazine than a book, with a series of “articles” or chapters that are not directly linked together but collectively investigate from different perspectives the physical manifestation of the digital space. The layout and the graphics were designed to be as clear and simple as possible to create a contrast with the complex and various content.
What dictated the use of the square format?
I personally believe that the square format was necessary to represent the different objects in a “democratic” way. The margins distance from the center is equal in any direction, creating a neutral base for the drawing where each element has the same weight as the others. This format was also important to find a common ground to represent the diverse situations of the project and to enhance the symmetry that has been used in the majority of the drawings.
Where do you see this interest and thesis of yours developing?
I hope the project could trigger some interesting discussions about the role of technology from a social and cultural perspective but most importantly to show and give more awareness of how impactful the physical space of data actually is. As architects we should spend more time and effort trying to understand this new emerging typology that is getting increasingly relevant in the built environment.
I hope the work I have been doing for the thesis could initiate a deeper research and study about spaces of production in the contemporary age, especially immaterial ones like Data Centers.
How will you imagine operating in the digital as the digital evolves- lets imagine a scenario in 2050? How will the tools available to architects change?
That’s a hard question to answer. What I personally forecast is that the digital space will become extremely smooth and effortless from a user perspective. Nowadays you can easily guess which specific software was used for design a building. In the future I think this digital signature will slowly fade away. The threshold between analog and digital will flatten, leaving us with tools that will respond more probably to primitive gestures than specific commands on specific softwares.
However, on a bigger scale, assuming that the architecture which supports data will also disappear is quite hasty. The infrastructure and most importantly the technical systems will get heavier to satisfy the growing energy thirst of servers, machine learning units and other computational equipment.
What is your take on colour? Why the monochromatic palette for the line drawings compared to the more vivid perspective views?
Color is an extremely powerful tool because it can raise the degrees of abstraction or take a composition to a more realistic result. For architectural drawings I usually choose a monochromatic palette in order to represent all the elements on a same graphical level and to emphasize the overall image. On the other hand for views and collages I try to collect and match colors to convey a sense of reality and connection between objects and places.
In this project, for example, the main aim of the perspective views was to communicate atmospheres and relations between the elements that conceptually compose the project. The choice of a predominant color is different in each of the 3 sites in order to mark and identify 3 different situations.
An exception is represented by the section. The line drawing combines a monochromatic palette with a colorful one to depict the passage between the cold, aseptic context to the new lush climatic zone created by the Data Center.
Tommaso Maserati is a 26 years old architect strongly focused in architectural theory and representation. He graduated in the fall of 2017 at Politecnico di Milano. During his education he participated to several workshops, curated independent exhibitions and worked in offices worldwide. The most relevant ones are the workshop at Renzo Piano Building Workshop for the redevelopment of Genova waterfront, his role as curator for the MIgrant Garden exhibition and the internship at Artechnic Architects in Tokyo. He spent his final year of Masters as exchange student at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design where later he had the chance of working as assistant teacher for the course “Places and Objects” that investigates and tries to close the loop between the digital and the analog. He is currently working as an architect for the architecture and design firm Snøhetta.