IMD _Institute of Media and Design

copyright _IMD

ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN | A Participatory Data Center A 100 as a social, energetic and political resource

Berlin desperately needs a new public place where it can be seen how closely data storage and governance are linked, how great the danger of losing control is, and how necessary it is to concentrate artificial intelligence not in the servers of large private corporations, but in the hands of citizens in a decentralized way - and what opportunities then open up for a new form of enlightened civil society.

What might that place look like?

What we are looking for is a hybrid building consisting of a data center, library and museum of the future, a new educational facility where the entire population, students and politicians alike, can learn how dangerous the prevailing business model of digital capitalism is for democracy and self-determination. This public server farm could house coding schools, exhibition spaces and research facilities, even a center for digital sovereignty.

The enormous heat generated by the constant need to cool data could also give rise to entirely new public architectures: Libraries, sports halls, greenhouses, swimming pools, a collective living room for the village, domed tropical evergreen settlements, etc.

“In the age of data capitalism, such a public server farm is a symbol of civil liberty similar to what the town hall once was as a counterweight to the feudal lord's castle: a treasure trove of the digital age, in which data can be understood as collective property, a public good”. (Niklas Maak _SERVERMANIFEST)

The site in Berlin

The choice of the site is pointed: The current expansion of Berlin's A100 city highway, based on decades-old approval processes, now seems out of date: Berlin doesn't need any more cars; traffic jams are already chronic. So it could well be that the A 100 extension already under construction or planned for the future will never be completed due to the ongoing protests from civil society, and that this deepened canal will be turned into a green belt, a linear park for cyclists and pedestrians.

If this does not happen, the placement of the PARTICIPATORY DATA CENTER A 100 is still a sensible use of the airspace above this route. The image of the soon to be completely electrified traffic flows and that of the digital data flows would be literally and metaphorically superimposed as a strong sign of the actual and virtual fluidity and mobility of our living world. Everything flows.

The PARTICIPATORY DATA CENTER A 100 will at the same time help to overcome the enormous, even destructive fragmentation of the urban structure at this point, as it will connect the districts of Neukölln and Treptow like a 'Living Bridge’ or a 'Linear park' and contribute to the restructuring of this currently wildly anarchic, neglected urban space. With the right programming of the building, it will foreseeably become a new cultural and social center in that district.

Prof. Matthias Karch

Student work by: Alwin Foerstner, Henrik Frenzel, Jonas Halbruegge
Examiner: Prof. Matthias Karch
Co-examiner: Prof. Elisabeth Endres
Coachings: Nicolai Schlapps & team IMD