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Arch elkhatib tommywang sp23 03

The DataVerse Citadel

From satellites and 5G towers to data centers and broadband networks, the internet weaves itself into the very fabric of our physical surroundings and has become an inextricable part of metropolitan cities such as New York. Over the past few decades, it has become such a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives that we often overlook the deleterious effects that come with its explosive growth. The spread of 5G towers across New York has raised valid concerns about privacy and health, while Starlink’s low-orbit satellites have contributed to light pollution and the proliferation of space debris. As our reliance on the internet continues to expand exponentially, so too does the potential for damage to our physical and social environments.

The data center serves as the lifeblood of the entire operation. However, a fundamental question arises: who wields control and agency over the vast amounts of data circulating? Focusing on the Sabey data center located in Lower Manhattan, the tallest data center in the world, my intervention ventures into a speculative future, one where the internet is decentralized, and its technology is no longer subject to the governance of big entities. In this imaginative scenario, the data center erodes and falls under the control of local communities who embark on a creative transformation of the tower, repurposing it into communal, educational, and social spaces within the existing infrastructure of the data center. Existing facilities such as electric generators, water pumps, antennas, and servers are leveraged to their full potential by the neighboring communities. The vertical steel frame of the data center will become the backbone of public parks, gardens, classrooms, auditoriums, libraries, galleries, digital archives, and more. Ultimately, this project seeks to restore agency to the local community by putting power back into the hands of the people.