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THE FABRICATION OF EVIDENCE

Tommaso Maserati


This book is a collection of small essays, images and thoughts. An extract of a deeper research that has as final aim the exploration and understanding of the physical manifestation of the digital space.


Content

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. The Paradox of the Cloud . Lost Cases . Sir, it’s not a Screen! . Digital Scale . Sacred Space/ Virtual Space . The IKEA Wall . The Fabrication of Evidence


The Paradox of the Cloud

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Every second 2,8 million emails are sent, 30.000 words are googled and 600 updates are tweeted. 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. This series of small essays aim to give an answer to this questions by exploring and defining the tangible space of data. Data centers were always depicted as dumb and generic warehouses, hidden from any human sight and activity. If we suppose that the built environment is rappresenting the values and the spirit of our society, how

do we face this architectural obliteration? The main issue is that we totally ignore the process that take us to consume data. As long as the cloud works nobody ask where and at which cost this enormous quantity of informations arrives at destination. Can a new architectural definition change our perception and awereness of this immaterial production? If yes how? The cloud lives in the collective imaginery as a paradox. This abstract and etheral figure is actually made of undersea cables, antenna towers, anonymous boxes and small routers. It is the heaviest infrastructure human kind has ever faced. Data center are the core or nerves of the system, they store our informations and they perform any virtual activity we demand.

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Lost Cases Lost cases is an architectural speculation where constructions of different scales and functions are deleted from their context. The act of removal will leave behind a generic empty platform with apparent no purpose or meaning. An empty zone that underlines the relation between the object and the context. Following a sort of forensic analysis the context are then reconstructed in plan to study and understand the consequences of the vanishing in different scenarios. The cases varies from the Pantheon absence in Rome, to the disappearance of the Christ the Redemeer in Rio de Janeiro, till to the demolition of a generic one family house

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in LA. Several question arised during the process to understand if there is a specific context and typology that is able to bear a removal without pauperize the identity of the place itself. Centre Pompidou for example offers a great example of a context that is used to demolitions, both at architectural and urban scales. It was built on Plateau Beaubourg, an empty platform used in the 60’s as a parking lot, sorrounded by typical Parisian residential housing units. Different fate is reserved to Pantheon that, when removed, leaves a hole in the urban tissue, underlining how the sorrounding buildings were raised around its centrality.


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Centre Pompidou Plan 12


Centre Pompidou View 13


Christ the Redemeer Plan 14


Christ the Redemeer View 15


Pantheon Plan 16


Pantheon View 17


LA Suburbs Plan 18


LA Suburbs View 19


Ford Rouge River Plan 20


Ford Rouge River View 21


Sir, it’s not a Screen!

Everytime we google something, according to a research conducted by Harvard University2, 7g of CO2 are released into the air. This emission is generated by the energy used by our devices but mainly by the power required to send it and process it somewhere

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in the world. This study demonstrated in a more immediate and evident way how environmental impactful internet and computer use is and how tremendously big is the amount of energy that is required to compute and store our informations.


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Traditional Cooling Diagram

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Hot Aisle Enclosure Diagram 24


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Liquid Cooling

Servers generate heat as the electronic components within the server use electricity. To dissipate this heat there are mainly two approaches: air cooling and liquid cooling. The first is the most widely used method. It could be applied and built with different levels of complexity. The most simple one consist on pumping cold air through ducts under a raised floor that costantly releases cold air in server proximity. This solution is obviously wasting a lot of energy since the input cold air mixes with the output hot one. The issue is partly improved by the introduction of a hot aisle enclosure system that contains the inner part of server racks

in a sealed environment, where the hot air is channelled back to the ventilation unit. An even better performance is associated to liquid cooling systems mainly because water has a higher thermal conductivity than air. Heat is removed by basically submerging the server with a non conductive liquid that cools it down. Immersive cooling floods the whole server parts, where the liquid absorbs the dissipated heat and takes it away from components or it runs troughh the server making contact just with the heat sink inside the equipment, absorbing heat and removing it from the system. The QR code above shows a video to visualize the concept.

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Digital Scale If somebody is carrying a film based camera probably he or she know the size of it, weight and dimension of the film roll and how many pictures can be taken. After the pictures are shot the film is developed and then the photographer owns finally a tangible output. The transition between the different moments and objects has a physical presence that allows us to know where and what’s happening. However if somebody takes a picture with a smartphone this process is interrupted after clicking the shot button. The file is stored in a small hard disk and then is usually backed up or sent to somebody else. When we do that we never think that

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this little abstract digital object has actually to be stored in a real physical space. Every day we upload 2 bilion pictures on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp and Flickr. If we consider other smaller platforms and backup services we can assume that per year there are more than 1 trilion pictures uploaded in the world. The hypotethical volume that could host them would be 345m high, 45m more than the Tour Eiffel, standing as a real monolith of the digital age. Why do we assume that every digital action is abstract or etheral then? Analog means capable to relate with the size and proportion of human body. When the digital scale comes in, it gets


far beyond our comprehension. The bit, or the basic digital unit, is currently thought of occupying a physical dimension that stays within 1 milion atoms when stored. However more recent research by IBM showed that it could actually be squeezed in a an area of just 12 atoms7. This dramatic scale reduction could trigger a series of speculation of what

the digital scale is going to be in the future. Assuming that the architecture which supports data will disappear is quite hasty though. The infrastructure and most importantly the technical systems will get bigger and heavier to satisfy the growing energy thirst of servers and other computational equipment. A data micro scale and a machine macro one.

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345m

1 Year of Uploaded Pictures on Social Networks 28


300m

Tour Eiffel 29


Sacred Space / Virtual Space

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Digital and divine. Both are immaterial entities that affect in an extremely pragmatic way our everyday lives. They manifest themselves beyond the metaphisical in places and objects. The sacred space is usually represented by a church, a mosque or a temple. The virtual space is the screen, or the interface but it phisically exist in a less evident way with data centers, radio towers or submarine fiber cables. What’s the difference between the two then? It could be stated that is mainly a matter of boundaries. A church for example is defined by a series of walls that marks a treshold. When you pass that limit you enter another environment that has emotional implications. When it comes to the digital space there is no boundaries, you can look at a screen anytime you want.

The only thing that could potentially stop that is a lack of energy. This underlines another substantial difference. One is an entity that could almost exist indipendently from technical evolution because mainly rooted in people beliefs and basic constructions, the other is deeply connected to a bigger technological system that has to be mantained and sustained. However with progressive digital discoveries this boundary will become less and less evident, merging the real world with the virtual one. This possible future will not affect however the spaces that allows our screens to perform. Could they become more relevant in the architectural discourse also generating a new kind of emotional space for the user? If so could they get some influences from temples or even mosques?

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1. Al Hakim Mosque, Cairo 2. Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem 3. Isa Bey Mosque, Selcuk 4. Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo 5. AlMansur Mosque, Baghdad 6. Mosque of Mutawakkil, Samarra 7. Al Azhar Mosque, Cairo 8. Great Mosque of Manisa 9. Great Mosque, Kufa 10. Great Mosque, Gaza 11. Great Mosque, Urfa


Indian Traditional Temple Flooring 34


Golden Section Scheme on Parthenon Facade 35


The IKEA Wall

IKEA is just not cheap, easy furniture and meatballs. The company managed in the years to build up a typological definition of their stores. Upper floor, a pathway that resembles a sort of antropological museum of 21st century domestic space; lower floor

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a bare warehouse stuffed with everything that is tidily displayed upstairs. However people tend to forget what’s one of the most prominent features of IKEA: the blue wall. Like Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown pointed out in “Learning from Las


Vegas” the treatment of the exterior facade of a building as one constitutive figure or element is aesthetically significant. What IKEA managed to do by simply painting the whole sides of the building in blue is to create an image or a reference in the collective imaginery. Everytime you are driving on the highway and you get a glimpse of a 3 stories high bulding all painted in blue, you istantly associate it with the Swedish company. Venturi points something analogically interesting in the book with the example of the building shaped as a duck. He states that the “Duck” is a building that gave so much importance to the sign that actually became the sign itself. This of course has to be read as an extremely radical example but it can demonstrate explicitly what’s the power of

branding and advertisement through the decoration of the facade. Why then the blue wall could’t be defined as an ornament, at the same level of ancient palazzos or even greek temples ones? Probably because is a matter of scale. The warehouse is a building that is usualy seen from the perspective and most importantly the speed of the car and therefore small details and depth of the classical facades become absolutely unrelevant and unnoticed. Big parts of The Internet are stored in generic warehouses that doesn’t express any evidence of what’s inside. Could this hidden content be expressed in a more explicit way on the exterior of the building? Is there a specific aesthetic for representing that content? If so could this emerging unidentified typology learn something from IKEA?

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The Fabrication of Evidence 7


Frame Frame

Infrastructure Infrastructure

System System

The sensitive private content of some Data Centers requires a high degree of security that is often solved by a tall fence around the building. Data centers host series of server that are connected to the global grid and process our informations. To operate safely they also must be cooled down by 1, a costant intake of cold air or water and 2, a costant emission of the waste thermal energy produced. The project is a direct manifestation of the basic needs of security and temperature control. The building becomes a protective fence itself, a squared frame that borders a portion of space. Between its walls, servers are 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 surreal climatic landscape. The water is then cooled down naturally by the atmospheric temperature, stored in a central tank and sent back in the loop. The result is a

Temperature Temperature

Climatic zone Climatic zone

Contrast Contrast

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 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. They have to respect some main requirements: cold environment to improve the natural cooling, absence of seismic activity to prevent accidental damage and sufficient proximity to high populated areas to address as many people as possible. The chosen cities are 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.

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Fence + Data Center 42


Fence = Data Center 43


Ground floor + Pipes layout 44

10m

100m


Generic Server Floor 46

10m

100m


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Thermal Flow 1 Cold water pumped in primary pipe 2 Cold water pumped in each server set 3 Server boards flooded and cooled down 4 Water warmed up

5 Hot water collected and sent to level 0 6 Hot water pumped in the ecosystem 7 Heat released in the ecosystem 8 Cooled down water sent back in the loop

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Control Room 52


Exterior Wall 53


Detroit

Anshan

Lillestrom


Tropical Forest

Platform for Public Dancers

Public Bath


Detroit Tropical Forest

The city of Detroit declared bankrupcy on July the 18th 2013. The New York Times claimed the city to be: “home to 700.000 people as well to ten thousands of abandoned buildings and vacant lots�. A big part of this empty spaces is represented by the automotive industries that were once the main economical cores of the city. The main one, Ford, still has a lot of plots scattered all over the territory. The Rouge River complex stands 5 km west from Detroit downtown. It is considered the first avampost of fordism that then defined the whole social landscape of the city. The complex lies next to the Rouge river, a water infrastructure that helped carrying in and out car parts. Ford recently completed a new building and is currently approving a new plan for the site. However still half of the plot is left empty, a huge portion of space that is kept away from the huge residential area that seats next to the plant. People demands better and new public spaces to gather and plan a new future for Detroit that is left abandoned of public green

areas. The Data Center will provide one, a tropical forest. It will be populated by exotic animals and new plant species. A real jungle to get lost but also to perform everyday activities we are used to. The creation of a natural space, highly in contrast with the extremely industrialized urban environment. The pace of the forest will counteract the pace of the city, providing a place that grows according to nature speed and not the frenetic rithm of a capitalistic driven society. The forest will be controlled and mantained by a sort of anarchic or collective movement in order to give people again the right to own vacant, potential areas of the city. IT companies will sponsor and support the construction of the Data Center itself with a future advertisement perspective. By doing so they will underline their controversial social effort in defyning a better world, following the same question that drives them to create apps and website: How can my product help, facilitate and entertain users by making at the same time tons of money?


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Anshan

Platform for Public Dancers Anshan is a city located on the north east border of the Asian continent. It has cold climate and an estimate population of 4 milion people. Due to proximity to big mining fields the city became China’s capital of iron and steel. The main refinery industry occupies the center of the town and it is sorrounded by big towers where workers live. The gigantic workforce needs domestic, leisure and activity spaces. To find a place to gather and perform activities they usually occupy plazas and perform a mix of gimnastic and dancing. There are more than ten milion square dancers in China and the government is currently blocking their right to meet and dance by placing rudimental steel barricades all over the squares. The Data Center will provide a platform for public dancers, a gigantic empty space barely equipped with a grid of electrical sockets and bathrooms. The size of it will allow thousands of people to gather and dance but also to leave space for other physical activities to emerge. Volleyball, taekwondo, tennis, basketball

and even football fields can be placed according to the grid, creating a pattern of programmatical diversities. The platform will be a deeply charged political space. What can be seen as a merely facility for sport activities, could also potentially become a space for indipendent and liberal thinking: a free and empty, of semi-dictatorial political regulations, ground where discussion, meetings and even revolutions can flourish. The stage used by the lead dancer to show moves and dance steps to the crowd can become a stage for a political speech, where a leader talks in fornt of his or her audience. The Data Center will be controlled and protected by private companies in a similar logic to the US example but with higher propaganda and political implications. It will be provided to people and not requested. Like the industry as a space for production, the social housing as the domestic space, and the shopping mall as the space for leisure, the Data Center will become the “given� space for activities, both physical and political


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Lillestrøm Public Bath

The city of Lillestrom is located in the Oslo region, one of the fastest growing in the whole Europe. It is a extremely frequented public transportation hub, especially for the proximity to Oslo and the main airport. The Municipality is then developing more housing for commuters but the city landscape is still strongly influenced by existing industries. The core industrial activity is a wood adhesive factory with chemical production. It represents a hazard for its sorroundings and is not compatible with the urban development. The premise for a coming change is therefore its relocation. The main question then is: how remaining infrastructure and new production can be part of the future of the area in relation with housing and public functions? Oslo doesn’t follow scandinavia in a pool or sauna trend even if people demand a humid and hot space to escape the cold winter. The Data Center will provide a public bath. A space mainly featured by a 400 meters swimming pool for a continuous physical exercise, emulating the norwegian

tradition of long distance swimming in lakes. The big element is crossed perpendicularly by other programs like a child pool, a diving platform, an area for water aerobics and a series of thermal pools. Facilities and dressing rooms populates the whole area and showers are are arranged every 10 meters as a continuous infrastructure. The result is a functional public facility that responds to a social need to have a hot place to escape from the natural environment. It will follow a process of demand and common acceptations, in line with the social democratic vision of the scandinavian State. The Data Center will be controlled by the Municipality and by the State that will provide an equal and regulated access for all the people of the city. It will be requested by the people and it will be used and perceived as a “natural resource”, like the clean drinkable water and the forest that sorrounds the city. In reality the usage of the pools will not be free. It will be payed and kept warm by the time spent by the users in front of a smartphone or a computer.


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Credits Buckminster Fuller, Geodesic Dome on Fire

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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/07/10/green.internet.CO2/index.html

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Central cooling plant in Google’s Georgia Data center

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Diagram of air cooling system in data center

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Diagram of air cooling system in data center

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LiquidCool Solutions Data Center Cooling

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Bistability in Atomic-Scale Antiferromagnets

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Cooling plant, Dubai

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The Big Duck, Long Island, Flanders, New York

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Doug Lehman, 1976

Lara Farrar, 2009

Google, Connie Zhou, 2012

John Sasser

John Sasser

Daren Klum, 2015

Sebastian Loth, Susanne Baumann, Christopher P. Lutz, D. M. Eigler, Andreas J. Heinrich, 2012

Bas Princen, 2009

Venturi Scott Brown & Associates, 1970


Acknowledgments This book and the thesis project wouldn’t have been able to be written and designed without the over criticized and discussed “Internet”. A big thanks to all the authors and also the anonymous people that build up the knowledge we can all benefit from anywhere and at anytime. Thanks to the Professors that followed me during the thesis process. Erik Fenstad Langdalen for his wise words, for his availability and kindness and for his tireless demand of clarity and precision in the argumentation of the project. Kai Justin Reaver for the incredible theoretical support, the costant inputs of brilliant new ideas and the sincere help given in any situation. Filippo Orsini for the extremely relevant advices on architectural composition and for his availability, trust and knowledge. Erik, Kai and Filippo professionality, guidance and support were outstanding and essential for completing the whole project. I would love to express also my gratitude towards The Oslo School of Architecture and Design where I spent an amazing year as exchange student, being able to use all the incredible spaces and facilities. I’m also extremely thankful to Doctor John Sasser. His initial suggestions about cooling technologies of Data Centers were pivotal at the beginning of the project for what then became the driving concept of the whole building. A huge thanks to the people of the architecture firm Snøhetta that allowed me to use all the amazing facilities and most importantly gave me great inputs of thoughts and comments in the last months of the process. I’m particularly thankful to Carsten Løddesøl for the help given for the production of the model, to Kristoffer Tjerrild Lund for the eveyday discussions, comments and critics about the project and to Eli Synnevåg and Cecilia Landmark, my project managers, for the flexibility given to work on the project. Finally I would love to express my gratitude towards my family, my friends and especially my girlfriend that had to listen patiently all the time about the project. The support of all these wondeful persons has always been a great push to complete and deliver this book and the thesis project. This accomplishment wouldn’t have been possible without them. Thank you.


The fabrication of evidence  

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...

The fabrication of evidence  

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...

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