Archive of the Long Now

“Forgetting has, in a manner of speaking, been the problem of the 20th Century.”

–Adrian Forty, The Art of Forgetting, 1999.

It is said that ‘information is power’. Following recent boom in technology and digital databases, the information of power has fallen increasingly into the hands of Silicon Valley pioneers who act as cyberspace ‘gatekeepers’. Such influential gatekeepers include companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft, all of which have now harnessed enough power to control the supervision, development and use of global data on the World Wide Web.

The methods of recording information and knowledge have altered immeasurably from ancient inscription onto stone to digital encryption of data into cyberspace. The dangers of such advancements have recently been voiced by Google’s Vice President and ‘father of the internet’, Vint Cerf, who fears that future generations will have little or no record of the 21st Century due to software becoming obsolete, as technology accelerates into digital revolution—or as he calls it, the “digital dark age”.

My interests lie in this uncertainty we face as a modern culture. Climate change is increasing the intensity of natural disasters, and thus, probably making worse the damage they inflict. Despite our knowledge of these environmental threats, our reluctance to confront the momentary nature of our digital infrastructures was something that encouraged me to approach my work from an architectural perspective.

View of the project along the creek.

“[...] while man’s conceptual powers aspire to the infinite, his body is essentially fragile, temporal, a corpus which will be laid waste, like material itself, by the unremitting action of time. If there remains any hope for recreating the iconic in the modern world, then […] it will either come from recognition of our intrinsic ontological limits or they will not arise at all.”

–Raimund Abraham

Inspired by the research being conducted at San Francisco’s Long Now Foundation, my intention was to explore the role of architecture in preserving the knowledge of our digital age and preventing its possibility of obsolescence. My work aims to combine the advantages of modern technology with methods of ancient construction with the purpose to challenge the potential and performance of modern architecture in cities that may be at great risk culturally, economically and environmentally.

Site Plan

Situated in San Francisco Bay, the project enquires the relevance of architecture and the significance of its presence in a city that anticipates the dominance of artificial intelligence. I was looking to provoke an alternate perspective on permanence, where fragility and entropy are embraced within the building’s design, construction and legacy. The building itself is a large time capsule built to curate, restore and preserve information in its most analogue form: printed media. Key ideas were inspired by the concept of ‘anti-monumentality’ and theories on the ‘self-destructive’ explored in Derrida’s Archive Fever. In constant use for 150 years and then left as a monument, the building is conditioned to deteriorate over the course of 5,000 years until its content is revealed in the year 7045.

Render of the building's deterioration after 5,000 years.

Ground Floor Plan

Archive Floor Plan

Section Detail

All images courtesy of Niki-Marie Janssen:

The Bartlett School of Architecture, Unit 7.