a b walker stacked

Keepsakes, national archives, historic landmarks. These “archives” become a part of today’s significance in both history/story-telling and space planning. Before the digital era, we record history through preserving physical artifacts, written texts, sketches, and (since the early 1900s) photographs. Although by then, the archival process already went beyond the one-to-one, meaning that the “archive” is comprised of both the artifact and documentation of it. But with today’s digital capabilities, this ratio is exponentially growing. The act of reproduction is quick in gaining momentum and often times, we are not even aware that we are “reproducing” it. When we see an image on google search, that image also is reproduced on another screen (without necessarily hitting “save as”). Along with the growth of digital data comes two seemingly opposing situations: (1) as technology evolves, smaller physical disks have a much higher capacity than before and (2) with the growth in data-storage efficiency comes a greater demand for more storage. Data and server centers are not to be overlooked. Sometimes buildings have dedicated floors for the servers and other times servers are located offsite in large monolithic towers. We are still in the phase of “as long it is unseen, we are okay” but as the demand grows, these large towers will start to populate our urban blocks. What would it be like to encounter these on a daily basis? (read more on our recent competition entry: data farm) Are server towers the new museums?

On the other hand, we are also experiencing more pressures from the preservationists and archaeologists to restore and preserve physical artifacts from our “history.” Restoration of these artifacts often follow their “historic landmark” designation. (read more on an earlier post regarding these “historic landmark” criteria). In some cases a replica is needed in order to fully preserve its original. When we talk about preserving a rose petal or a love letter, it doesn’t add up to a lot. But in other instances, where either architecture or sculpture is “stored” or kept, a larger footprint needs to be accounted for. Even when the cathedrals in Europe were built, the existing city states layout were kept and preserved. Today, both the cathedral and the underground cityscape are preserved. If we briefly refer to the sketch of A.B. Walker’s skyscraper (later reinterpreted by Rem Koolhaas), in which each floor were built of a different environment, cities in the future are both growing with the future time span as well as the past, all stacked upon the previous.

We will soon run out of space.

The question becomes: is it possible to hold all additional loads? (the growing population, the expanding city, etc.) If so, by what method? (stacking? floating? sinking in water? etc.). If not, what is the selection method? Can we live in an archive-based world where the only tangible reality lies in the shell of these data centers?


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