Niklas Maak – Server Manifesto, Data Center Architecture and the Future of Democracy


Hatje Cantz, ISBN 978-3775750707, English, 112 pages, 2022, Germany

The aesthetics of server farms have been explored by artists since the 2010s as sites of monumental and hidden infrastructures. From Timo Arnall’s Internet machine, a video work with fascinating perspectives on server farms, to Mario Santamaria’s Internet Tour, a performative tourist route that ‘visits’ urban data centres from the outside, the physicality of these buildings has been interpreted from different perspectives. The architecture critic and teacher Niklas Maak has put together an excellent manifesto with ten statements about the central and undervalued role of servers. Each of them deals with a specific aspect, both architecturally and politically. For example, the farm’s architecture that inverts the classic architectural capitalist form of the skyscraper and hides in peripheral anonymous structures; or the state that abandons its attempts to build a digital society. The goal is to reappropriate collective history and memory through the ocean of data we have produced and to organise something resembling a state archive. Francesca Bria brilliantly calls for the restoration of our ‘digital sovereignty’ in the introduction, while the imaginative student projects at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main, propose an architectural repositioning of these structures if they do not become part of the public infrastructure.