So, what’s so exciting about data centers?

Exeter Cathedral. Exeter, UK. Original image source: www.exeter.anglican.org

The motivations behind Project Rhizome’s take on architecture’s most boring contemporary building type.

It should come as no surprise that architects are dreamy creatures. In the midst of our daily routines filled with precision tasks such as CAD and 3D modeling, checking our designs for compliance with fire codes and zoning regulations, what we are really striving to do is petrify the human condition in spatial artifacts. Deep inside, every architect aims to build the majestic and sublime cathedrals of the age (metaphorically speaking): be those the actual churches of the Middle Ages, cathedrals of capital manifested in early skyscrapers, or cathedrals of culture taking the shape of museums and concert halls today.

In order to find typologies worthy of such exaltation, every architect is in constant search for the traits of her Zeitgeist — the spirit of the age — and the means to communicate it spatially.

Let’s take a look at the contemporary world from that perspective and try and find the cathedral of today.

To a person unaware of the technicalities hidden beneath the surface, the age we live in must seem like a magical one. Cars drive themselves. Surgeons operate on their patients from miles away. Body tissues are grown like vegetables. Printers print sneakers that account for the unique irregularities of their owner’s feet. The entire knowledge of the world is free and available for all. It is an age of hyper-connectivity, dizzying speeds, instantaneous, autonomous and self-aware processes.

All of these advances and the resulting well-being we’ve come to enjoy have been enabled by our ability to harness data. We are a cloud society, dependent on computing with our very lives. This is the human condition.

For most of us who don’t care where the conveniences we’ve come to enjoy stem from, the world of data is magical and ephemeral and we are happy just leaving it at that. But for those of us, who think in terms of cause and effect, a question arises: where does this all-powerful computing cloud live?

The answer: Data centers.

This is why for an architect in search of the Zeitgeist, an interest in data centers is only natural, despite their perceived boringness and engineering complexity: data centers can be argued to be the de-facto cathedrals of our age.

Project Rhizome was born out of this idea.

Once we realized how important data and its infrastructure were for humanity, we asked ourselves: How can we contribute? Given our design backgrounds, we are starting with a service we know how to provide and a vision that we believe is the future: we aim to design disaggregated data centers — not only with the functionality, but also the dignity they deserve.

But we don’t want to stop there. Ultimately, we are here to help build a better infrastructure of the internet, and we want to do it in any capacity we can. After all — it is the very fabric of the modern society we are talking about.


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