Serving the Farms

November 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Le Corbusier, in his book “Towards a New Architecture”, pointed at the urban grain elevator as one of the most incredibly pointed example of American ingenuity and solutions to scale.  I think that observation was incredibly honest, and incredibly insightful towards a country that incredible productive and incredibly resourceful.

So, what would a man like Corbusier say about the server farms that have sprung up in the last ten years?  What would he say about their function, about their beauty, and about their sheer existence?

Unless a person’s been living under a rock’s rock, we would know that the internet has incredible infrastructure.  There is a giant conduit at the bottom of the ocean tying the continents together with information.  All the websites content is stored in gigantic banks of servers, with hundreds of people cooling and organizing them.  These servers need few things really, they’re very simple. They need connecting wires and huge air conditioned spaces. The result of this are exactly the look and function of apple packing houses.  Large open insulated buildings with cheap energy cost, low risk of earthquake, and open space.  It’s too bad these buildings are so incredibly ugly in the landscape. There is a growing realization in the news about the ramifications of server farms, and what it is they are doing to the places they are built in.  A couple very good articles on the impact of server farms include a NYT article about the town of Quincy and another NYT article on the shifty economics of companies.

There are few architecture programs in the world left for architects to re-envision – for good mostly (fingers crossed). And these server farms which are only going to become larger and more visible, should be looked at by their owners for territory to introduce good design to. After all, the effect most of them have are as job and economy stimulators to the small communities that have seen the decrease in small farms and increases in unemployment and isolation. The real effect seems to be just as the sight of the buildings suggest – a looming fortress of concrete and loud condensers who employ a less than a McDonald’s franchise – and they’re getting tax breaks and energy rebates.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. owe use all to introduce the server farm as something to be happily astonished by just as Corbusier was astonished by the beauty of the grain elevators.


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