The architecture of technology: designing the world’s data centres

Pioneering a new typology

Data centres are vital to modern life, and they’re proliferating. They’re full of racks of computer servers, which store website data and share it with other computers and mobile devices. Every search, click or streamed video sets several servers to work. Worldwide, they have grown in number from 500,000 in 2012 to more than 8m today, according to market intelligence provider International Data Corporation.

But their architecture has been largely overlooked. Typically, data centres are big grey, windowless warehouse-style boxes with high-security fences. Nearly all the effort goes on the inside: servers, along with equipment to power and cool them.

Inside the Gak Chuncheon data centre in South Korea. Photography: Naver

However, some data centres buck this trend. Dotted around the world are fine examples of this new architectural typology by some of our most interesting practices. Power House: the architecture of data centres showcases some of these gems and demonstrates that when architects are given freedom or have inspired clients, these buildings can become architecturally significant.

Power House: the architecture of data centres runs at the Roca Gallery London from 4 November 2021 to 28 February 2022

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