Alice in Dataland
Diploma project at the Department of Architecture, University of Patras (2019)
Architect: Marina Avouri
Supervisor Professor: Panos Dragonas
The design concept comes from Lewis Caroll’s novel Alice in Wonderland (1865). Two hundred years later, in 2065, four points of intervention in the city of Patras define the chapters of a new narrative. The main character is X-ALICE_42. She is not quite human. She is a cyborg: an augmented human who wears equipment that permanently connects her to the cloud and augments her physical environment. X-ALICE visits four places: The Fiber Hole, the Data Memorial, the Disconnected Field and the Relay Observatory. These points are essential urban infrastructures that meet the needs of citizens in the future Patras. Each point refers to a different part of Carroll’s original story.
While walking through an arcade in Patras, X-AL¬ICE falls into a manhole. She ends up in the city’s underground network of pipes, the Fiber Hole. The increasing need for information transmission has led to the construction of large fiber-optic tunnels. X-ALICE wanders through the tunnels of the Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and the Wide Area Network (WAN) until she finds the next manhole, which leads back to the surface of the city.
In the second chapter, X-ALICE visits the Data Memorial of Patras. This is where the digital souls of the dead are stored. The building is both a data centre and a cemetery. It stands at the edge of a pier in the old harbour of the city, facing the sea. The Data Memorial consists of two distinct parts: a compact underwater base, where information is stored in server racks, and a light structure above sea level. In the latter, visitors can access information about the deceased in individual booths. The point is related to Alice’s Lake of Tears in the original story, as both refer to grief and the element of water.
In this technological version of the city, where reality is augmented by digital information, the need for offline spaces has been born. A new architectural typology is created in the urban voids of the city. The Disconnected Field is a curved Faraday cage that blocks electromagnetic signals. It is placed on a new level above the modest constructions of the void. A grid of beams runs along the top of the cage, supporting a number of spherical capsules. These are made of radiation-resistant materials that further isolate the users. The jamming of the signal is related to the locked doors that Alice encounters in a corridor after her fall.
The last point X-ALICE visits is the Relay Observatory. The signals in Patras in 2065 have multiplied and the 5G network is supported by huge antennas. The Relay Observatory is located in the upper part of the city, on top of an old block of flats. It consists of a thin needle-shaped core and a perimetric ring that houses an observatory and a master switching centre. The geometry and programming of the observatory refers to a physical transformation that happened to the original Alice when her neck stretched across the forest after eating some special mushrooms. X-ALICE_42 finishes her walk at the Relay Observatory by taking a general night view of the augmented city of 2065.