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Church of Colocation

Videogame and drawing commission for ‘Re-Types’, the adaptive repurposing of imagined existing buildings in order to explore intersectional identities and new architectural expressions. Part of Architecture Fringe 2019.

Churches have long been repositories for stories, where many congregate to listen week by week. Attendees utter prayers, confessions and private intonations which become contained within the walls of the Church, repeated week by week. Their structures hold relics from the past, tombs and artefacts commemorating people and events throughout history. Stained glass windows, frescos and alter-pieces stand as early forms of a virtual world where the space of the image would co-exist with the architectural fabric of the building.

Our proposal re-imagines the Church as a place for storing data. Having once served as centres for the community, the church could now remain localised, a way for people to store and protect their information in an easily accessible location as opposed to a mysterious off-shore site. Data centres are the physical form of the internet and the cloud, drawing vast resources, with specific environmental requirements that move beyond the human.

We see images of endless data infrastructure and cabling which remain inaccessible for public use, these are not architectures designed around human occupation. This infrastructure has already started to spread into our existing architecture, becoming contained in nuclear bunkers, and defunct skyscrapers amongst other locations including a supercomputer within a Church.

Beyond the proprietary data centres of giant corporations, smaller ‘colocation’ centres allow multiple clients to hold their different forms of data together in the same physical environment.

Our proposal argues that the environmental qualities of a church: dark, cool and dry, provide an ideal environment for the constant whirring of the data towers within. We have constructed a virtual game space that reimagines the church as the connection point between our information, stored on physical devices, and all the many worlds of information and experience that this connects us to. In our game, the stained-glass window acts as a portal to a unique virtual realm overwhelmed by different forms of data which the player must navigate through.

These realms reflect the variety of information that is stored in data centres, and their unique way of structuring and sorting data. In #Space, the player moves through an environment structure by the filters and ‘folksonomies’ that sort endless photos and texts on social media. The intangible Data Lake recreates a reservoir for unsorted data to be held in various configurations – both fast and slow – trawled indiscriminately and left until such a time as it leaves to become sorted and siphoned off to another location. As the player enters MMOrphology, an environment inspired by World of Warcraft and other ‘massively multiplayer’ online worlds, they encounter connections and communities that exist only online, stored in the cloud. En-Crypt plays with our relationship to passwords and other forms of encryption, suggesting a digital realm where the entire space is encoded and ever-shifting.

If the Church has always been a repository for our ideas, stories and collective experiences, then our Church of Colocation suggests that these relationships can continue on into the cloud, where we will make new memories, store new codices and unravel new meanings.