Check out the A&B portal!

Underground data center. Featured project using a former military bunker

05 of February '24
w skrócie
  1. The international Data Landscape architectural competition organized by the Young Architects Competitions portal sought a design for a Data Storage Center in northern Italy.
  2. Among the ten awarded works was a project from Poland - Minig Data by Zofia Sosnierz and Ewa Ziemiecka.
  3. The project makes use of the remains of a military bunker and refers to the quarries in the region.
  4. In addition to the data center, the architects placed a bathhouse occupying two levels in the building located underground.
  5. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal

Zofia Sośnierz and Ewa Ziemiecka, architects and co-founders of the Rotterdam-based Alternative Realities studio, took part in the international Data Landscape competition to design a Data Storage Center on a plot of land located in northern Italy. The young architects' project called Mining Data, referring to the quarries located in the region, caught the attention of the jury, which awarded it an honorable mention.

The organizers of the Young Architects Competitions portal proposed as the competition location a plot of land located in the pre-Alpine region of Sant'Anna D'Alfaedo in northern Italy, where—embedded in the picturesque green surroundings—are the remains of a former military bunker. The challenge was to design such a facility that would be a model for the next generation of data centers. The organizers asked to take into account two main aspects: the unique landscape—the proposed architecture had to, establish a clear and deep relationship with the surrounding nature. Secondly, there had to be a reference to the military architecture on site.

Mining Data wykorzystuje obiekty dawnych bunkrów

Mining Data uses the facilities of former bunkers

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

honorable mention for polish architects

The design, in addition to the Data Storage Center, was to include any additional function. The competition entries were judged by a jury consisting of:Patrick Lüth (Snøhetta), Mats Wahlström Walter (Ateljé Ö), Jelena Vucic (BIG Bjarke Ingels Group), Fedele Canosa (Mecanoo), Enrico Frizzera (Manni Group), Gianandrea Gazzola, Samuele Tommasi (Comune di Sant "Anna d "Alfaedo), Giorgio Ventre (Università di Napoli Federico II, Apple Developer Academy), Alessandro Adamo (DEGWLombardini 22) and Lorenzo Bottinelli (BASF). The competition awarded three grand prizes, two gold awards and ten honorable mentions. Among them was the Mining Data project by Zofia Sośnierz and Ewa Ziemiecka, architects who form the Rotterdam-based Alternative Realities studio with Simon Bjørkå Flatin.

Mining Data, diagram idei

Mining Data, diagram

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

When approaching the project, the architects focused on the unique geological character of the Lessin region, abundant in numerous marble deposits and thus quarries.

The quarries became scars in the landscape, signaling the problematic relationship between the landscape and modern society, culturally conditioned by the desire to take without giving anything in return for the land. These are the problems we face today. Our project is an attempt to reflect on some of these aspects and discuss them through architectural research," they explain.

 Mapa geologiczna terenu Mapa kamieniołomów

Geological analysis and map of quarries located in the area

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

landscape analysis

Zofia and Ewa began their research with a thorough analysis of the landscape and its qualities, creating numerous maps.

We also discovered, a wealth of various fascinating man-made spatial elements that influenced changes in the landscape. Some of these elements can be called radical and invasive, while others are subtle additions that combine or emphasize certain qualities of the landscape. Based on these analyses, we decided to combine the various traces of the past to create a collection of elements that tell the story of the place and how it has been used by humans. How far are we able to go in terms of cutting, mining, pollution and drainage. We wonder what the ultimate goal of these activities is. Is it about pleasure? Comfort? Or perhaps to satisfy our "sublime tastes"?—the authors continue.

Projekt Mining Data w otoczeniu przyrody

Mining Data project in a natural setting

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

what is hidden underground

The architects found the idea of mining and what lies underground particularly interesting—they came up with the idea after a lot of research around the plot and Lessina. The designers used a cartographic method, through which they discovered rich deposits of various stones, the locations of quarries (active and no longer), landforms, bodies of water, and urban settlements and military buildings (bunkers, forts). The center's design was placed almost entirely underground, referring to military facilities and the process of extracting valuable marble.

Rzut Mining Data Rzut łaźni

projection of the data center and bathhouse

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

The building program includes two parts—a relaxation space (bathhouse) and infrastructure (data center). Both elements are designed to meet the needs of users, both physical and mental. These needs have been satisfied by man for centuries at the expense of the landscape and the destruction of nature.

We also wanted to include aspects to counteract the seemingly destructive nature of the project. We tried to fit them carefully into the landscape and thus raise questions about the actual destructiveness of the excavations," the authors add.

Pod ziemią znajduje się centrum danych

Below the ground is a data center

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

mining data

Mining Data consists of four levels, which have been connected to each other using various technical and structural elements. The top level is the existing bunkers (with an additional extension), which serve as an entrance, technical rooms or other rooms serving the data center.

Przestrzeń łaźni

raw space of the bathhouse

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

The level below is the data center, which by its shape resembles the existing forts in the surroundings, which are partly hidden underground and create inner courtyards that are difficult to reach. This is also the case with the proposed data center—access to it is limited.

Do ogrzewania łaźni wykorzystuje się energię z centrum danych

Energy from the data center is used to heat the bathhouse

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

data-heated bathhouse

Another two levels underground is a bathhouse created by excavation. Its spaces are created by excavating the stone and leaving monolithic blocks of rock as ceiling supports, this rawness gives the facility a unique character. Using natural airflow methods, the architects designed different types of rooms, using and combining hot/cold air and hot/cold water.

Mining Data, diagram wymiany temperatury

Mining Data, temperature exchange diagram

© Zofia Sośnierz, Ewa Ziemiecka

One of the main aspects of the project was to think about how to connect the two programs. We decided to create a dynamic exchange between the systems in the data center and the spaces in the bathhouse. Heat from the data center is reused to heat the baths and spaces in the bathhouse, while cold water from the wells and niches is used to cool the servers above. In this way, usually invisible processes have been made visible—one can wander between ice wells and foggy caverns, where cold air and hot water (or vice versa) reflect two features of the programs. In this project, immateriality becomes physically perceptible," the architects conclude.

Also read about the Serpentine Data Farm project by Sławomir Szczotka, which was shortlisted for this competition.

Dobrawa Bies

The vote has already been cast