Tiia Partanen wins the RIBA Silver Medal award with a radical reimagining of the data centre to combat ‘surveillance capitalism’
The Cloud Cooperative
University of Strathclyde
Tutors: Ewan Imrie, Lizzie Smith
The Cloud Cooperative seeks to reinvent the data centre typology as part of an overhaul of the internet to counter the growing power of surveillance capitalism. Sparked by a television programme on the power of leading internet data companies, Tiia Partanen’s ambitious project first considers how individuals often sign away rights to their personal data thanks to the ‘purposeful obscuration’ of complex terms and conditions. This lack of transparency is reflected in the deliberately anonymous architecture of the data centre.
‘Through their inscrutable facades, their physical distance from our daily lives, and their architectural camouflage, the typology of the data centre is used to enforce the power imbalances created by surveillance capitalism,’ she says.
After researching current initiatives to promote a more positive, de-centralised internet, she proposed a pilot project in Edinburgh as the first steps towards a more ‘sustainable, transparent and democratic’ internet. This promotes online privacy by giving people power over their own data. The result would be community-owned ‘data grounds’ free to individuals but not to corporations, who can only harvest data with consent and under strict usage conditions. These include education, research and community facilities, with leisure pools heated by the nearby servers, which are visible to bathers as they take a dip in the water.
Partanen’s project explores this in three phases over successive decades. In the first phase, servers of traditional hard-disk data storage are connected to a city-wide renewable and district heating scheme to offset their carbon footprint. The second phase recycles obsolete oil rigs as maintenance platforms for tanks of server racks submerged in the Firth of Forth, which provides passive cooling. These tanks also serve as locations for oyster farms. The final phase is a design for a visitable, subterranean data archive on Cramond Island. This makes use of emerging 5D optical data storage technology that doesn’t require cooling to engrave information as nano-scale grooves on quartz glass blocks.
University De Montford University
Tutors: Yuri Hadi, Vasilena Vassilev
The Earthen Land Registry
Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL)
Tutors: Matthew Butcher, Ana Monrabal-Cook, Oliver Wilton
An Art School in Enugu
Tutors: Andrew Clancy, Laura Evans
SERJEANT AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN DRAWING AT PART II
The Dalston Hub: A Vertical Market
Oxford Brookes University
Tutor: Toby Shew
AWARD FOR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN AT PART II
Nicholas Honey and Robert Thackeray
Tutors: Christos Kakalis, Zeynep Kezer, Ivan Marquez Munoz
SILVER MEDAL JUDGES
Chair: Tracy Meller
Partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners; honorary professor of architecture at the University of Nottingham
RIBA president; co-founder and director at Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Head of the School of Architecture and Cities at the University of Westminster
Part 2 Course Leader at the Arts University Bournemouth, UK
Founder and principal architect at Lina Ghotmeh Architecture, Paris, France
Associate director and sustainability lead at Skidmore Owings & Merrill Europe