AM4, Equinix's new datacenter in Amsterdam, makes the invisible visible: the abstract data cloud is wrapped in an impressive tower where 12-storeys of servers facilitate our internet traffic and data storage 24 hours a day.
European Internet node
From the Amsterdam ringroad A10 this 'cloud box' - a tower of seventy-two meters high on the Amsterdam Science Park - is clearly visible. The new building is Equinix's second datacenter at the Amsterdam Science Park. The campus processes about 38 percent of all Dutch data traffic. In Europe, the Amsterdam area - together with London and Frankfurt - is one of the most important datacenter hubs. In 2012, the first datacenter was opened, AM3, and now the tower - AM4 with 6.500m2 of server space - has been added. The buildings are linked by bridges.
"For datacenters to gain social acceptance in cities, we must make sure their aesthetics relate to their surroundings."
The Netherlands was the first country in Europe to be connected to the internet. Datacenters exist here since 1988; the first was at the center of Mathematics & Informatics, also at the Science Park in Amsterdam. Previously, datacenters weren’t prominent buildings in our environment; they were anonymous boxes in remote industrial areas. Due to the emergence of cloud services and big data, the datacenter market continues to grow exponentially. This sector, one of the strongest pillars of the Dutch economy, is now indispensable in our society.
Designing the datacenter was a paradoxical task, according to architect Joost Vos: "The buildings had to fit in with its surroundings. They must be attractive, however not too welcoming. We all want our personal data to be safe, but we feel awkward about large datacenters in our cities, because we don’t want fortress-like buildings surrounded by high-security fences in public spaces.
Head in the clouds
"We designed a canal as the first layer of safety, a more friendly alternative to barbed wire fences. Employees and visitors then go through an identity checkpoint in a light and spacious lobby. To reach the datacenter, the visitor walks over a bright red bridge which marks the passage to a strictly secured area. After scanning fingerprints, one enters the ‘white space’, where the servers are located. It's a totally different experience from being in a converted warehouse, that often serve as datacenters. The exterior is grand, clean and cool: it resembles a large hard disk, with horizontal slants passing the air from the cooling system. The high-rise building is made of triangular aluminum profiles, which are black on one side and silver on the other, and become more narrow in the top - an optical illusion that makes the tower look slimmer.
"From the Science Park you will see the surroundings reflected in the façade, the top of the tower seems to dissolve into the air. The architecture is as ambivalent as the cloud." - Kirsten Hannema, ArchitectuurNL, July 2017
Flexible and sustainable
AM4 is equipped with energy storage systems. When heat is generated, it provides heat for other buildings at Amsterdam Science Park. "On the one hand, you see that we’re increasingly storing data in the cloud; we are currently working on several new towers. On the other hand, there is continuous miniaturization, which results in less storage space. We have also taken into account that when less server space is needed, the facades can easily be replaced, and the building can be easily transformed into apartments. "
Benthem Crouwel Architects
Gross floor area