Marina Otero Wins 2022 Wheelwright Prize with a Project Focused on Data Storage Architecture
Harvard University Graduate School of Design (Harvard GSD) has announced Marina Otero as the winner of the 2022 Wheelwright Prize. The 100,000 USD grant funds two years of research and travel to support contemporary architecture’s investigative approaches, with an emphasis on globally minded research. The winning proposal, “Future Storage: Architectures to Host the Metaverse”, examines a new architecture paradigm for storing digital data. The project looks at how reimagining digital infrastructures could provide answers to the unprecedented demands facing the world today. The field research, data collection, and prototype development will result in an open-source manual for data center architecture design containing examples of ecological, circular, and egalitarian data storage models.
Otero was chosen from the four finalists selected from a highly competitive international pool of applicants. The other finalists are Curry J. Hackett, Summer Islam, and Feifei Zhou, whose proposals have been recognized for their merits in terms of relevance and rigor. Nevertheless, Otero’s proposal was deemed the most compelling, for its insights into a largely neglected building typology that bears vast implications on land and energy consumption worldwide. Otero will commence her research and data collection this summer, followed by site visits to Iceland and Sweden, both global leaders in renewable energy.
The prize reaffirms my confidence in the ability of this research to bring about new paradigms for consuming and storing data, expressly to make a difference. Data centers might not seem like an exciting place for an architectural project. However, the huge scale of the operations of the data industry and its pervasiveness and increasing importance in the contemporary world–coupled with its openness to innovation and concurrent pressures to find better socio-ecological models–creates a fertile environment for experimentation and action. – Marina Otero
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Marina Otero is the head of social design masters at Design Academy Eindhoven, where she leads a program focused on the roles for designers attuned to contemporary ecological and social challenges. She is a co-editor of Unmanned: Architecture and Security Series (2016), After Belonging: The Objects, Spaces, and Territories of the Ways We Stay In Transit (2016), Architecture of Appropriation (2019), and More-than-Human (2020); and editor of Work, Body, Leisure (2018).
Otero follows 2021 Wheelwright Prize winner Germane Barnes, whose Wheelwright project Anatomical Transformations in Classical Architecture is in its travel-research phase. Previous winners have presented diverse research proposals, including studies of kitchen typologies around the world; the architecture and culture of greenhouses; the potential of seaweed, shellfish, and the intertidal zone to advance architectural knowledge and material futures; and how spaces have been transformed through the material contributions of the African Diaspora.
The 2022 Wheelwright Prize is juried by: Will Hunter, 2022 Harvard GSD Loeb Fellow and founder and chief executive of London School of Architecture; Adrian Lahoud, dean of the School of Architecture at the Royal College of Art; Mark Lee, chair of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard GSD; Irene Sunwoo, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator, Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago; Shirley Surya, curator of design and architecture at M+; and Sarah Whiting, dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at the Harvard GSD.