Call for Proposals: Deterritorialized Living / Inhabiting the Computers’ Cabinet

Radical designs and sustainable strategies for shared, open and livable Personal Data Centers (& Cloud(s))


In collaboration with fabric | ch and supported by Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council, Tsinghua Art & Sciences Research Center Media Laboratory (TASML) is pleased to announce an open call to the Tsinghua community for individuals or interdisciplinary groups of students and faculty in the fields of Architecture, Design, Art and Sciences. Conceived by fabric | ch, the competition is inspired by Deterritorialized Living, a workshop, a project and series of online “tools/atmospherics” developed on the Tsinghua campus during a recent residency.

A special price for the Award of Distinction is also open to international entries.



Since the public emergence of the Internet and the web in the mid ’90s and the ubiquitous presence of wireless communication, peer to peer exchanges, and social networks of all kinds in recent years, we have witnessed a growing tendency towards horizontally mediated decentralization. These conditions have not only deeply influenced the ways in which people and societies interact (social interactions, exchanges, mobilities, artifacts, economies, etc.), but have also affected how clusters of computers and hardware collaborate or exchange information. To some extent, networks have generated some sort of “geo-engineered” milieu that triggers an experience of delocalization: ambient deterritorialization that is always around, always on.

Recently the “network” concept has started to widen its influence: the energy industry is planning to adopt the horizontal model with its “smart grid” plans, in which everybody should be able to produce their own clean energy and store it or share it with the rest of the community. We can witness something similar in alternative, locally produced food: the idea of distributed food that is produced close to the place where it will be eaten, through the approach of highly decentralized and small scale “gardening” or through certain forms of urban “farming”. Rapid prototyping also helps to spur a similar movement in the product design community.

Yet, on the data side, we are witnessing the exact opposite: we have moved from a fundamentally decentralized model towards a highly “mainframed” (centralized) structure of corporately owned data, services and data centers, although these seemingly “immaterial” information architectures appear to be deceptively decentralized, accessible everywhere, anytime.

Should we then consider personal-urban-“data-farming” instead of corporate data centralization too? Or should we rather try urban-“data-gardening” instead? Could we build a highly decentralized, almost atomized open system of small interconnected data centers? Could we possibly inhabit these data centers, taking advantage of the heat they generate, the high-bandwidth network access they provide, the data they collect? Should we also consider their necessary relocation while taking into account their highly mediated nature?

Or should we simply consider the data center figure (and its services) for what it is: the furtive icon of our modernity and of the radically modified relation we maintain to global territory? Should we therefore think about it in even more radical or speculative terms?

Based on the context above, we are calling for proposals under the title of “Deterritorialized Living (Beijing sessions) / Inhabiting the Computer’s Cabinet.”


An abstract space of 9 square meters is proposed for the competition, to be designed into a large computer-cabinet that is inhabitable. Its exact shape, height and volume are to be defined by the candidates.

The cabinet can be situated in any natural or artificial place on Earth. It can also be located in an ideal environment (which should be defined in detail). Cooling (natural or artificial) is the only necessary condition: fresh air (and/or other refreshing means) needs to enter the space and to cool down the machines. It is then transformed into hot air charged with positive ions by the processing units that could in turn be used for any other meaningful purposes or symbiotic uses, before eventually being extracted.

The computer-cabinet functions as a small data center. A certain number of servers, NAS (networked attached storage), virtual machines, etc. are therefore also installed within this space. The inhabitant(s) have to share the space with the machines in some ways. The status and/or security of the data could also be addressed in some creative ways.

The cabinet is part of a network and can be combined or aggregated with others to form a larger, possibly mobile, mediated and/or networked structure.

Objective: by taking advantage of the physical, informational, computational, chemical, biological, environmental or climatological features of the facility (inside and outside), the project focuses on creating a livable environment within the computers’ data cabinet (or personal data center). The outcome of the project could be to engage with the overall design or to develop a very specific device, object, software, interface and/or installation within this given framework.

Ressources is an artificial atmosphere conceived by fabric | ch, composed by a set of open web services and libraries, that were developed in the context of a residency on the Tsinghua University campus between Spring and Summer of 2013 (at TASML).

These open-source, “ambient deterritorialization” data feeds and environments in the form of Deterritorialized Time, Deterritorialized Daylight (Lm, IR, UV) and Deterritorialized Air (N2, O2, CO2, Ar) can be freely used in the context of this competition.

Eligibility / Rules

The call is open to all students and young faculty members of Tsinghua University. The application should include candidate’s name and school or department affiliation.

The Award of Distinction of US$ 1000 is open to international submissions.

Works submitted by individuals or teams are all welcome. However we highly encourage interdisciplinary, transdepartmental team participation. All submissions should be written in English.

Submissions shall not be published or made public in other venues until a final decision by the jury is made public.


Submission Deadline

The submission deadline is October 14, 2013, 10pm Beijing time.

Any uncompleted submission by the time of the deadline will be excluded from judgment by the Jury.


Competition launch: August 30, 2013 –

-Final Submission: 10pm (Beijing time), October 14, 2013

-Announcement of winning entries and mentions: November 1, 2013

-Presentation by the winning team in Lisbon at the Lisbon International Architecture Biennial Close, Closer, Portugal: December 14, 2013

Submission Guidelines

Email submission, in one email with one pdf file attached, to, maximum size limit is 20mb, with the title of the message as the title of your project:

File to be attached to your mail:

One pdf document in A3 horizontal layout or any other format you’ll find more relevant to your proposal (labeled: name-of-my-project.pdf), to be screened (the jury will look at your proposition on screen), containing the following, not exceeding 8 pages:

A) Information

-          Title of the project.

-          Name / surname, Tsinghua school or department affiliation, email address and date of birth of the representing member for the team (one person only).

-          Names / surnames, Tsinghua school or department affiliation, email addresses and dates of birth of all other members of the team.

-          Short descriptive biography (not exceeding 150 English words of each individual)

-          Links to additional visual materials, including video, website, etc., if needed.

B) Project

-          Images and diagrams summary of the project (most important elements, in screen quality).

-          Project concept: describe the conceptual reasoning of the project.

-          Project description: describe what it does practically.

-          Technical description: describe the technical components of the project.


Proposal should be written in English. Project title should be listed in the lower right corner of each page on all documents.

Jury members:

An international jury will select the winning proposal. Jury members will be disclosed along with the announcement of the winning candidates.

Evaluation guidelines:

Transformative potential, speculation, risk taking, and the originality yet feasibility of the proposal will be key factors for the jury.

-Quality of presentation and documentation (including technical, scientific description and visual presentation).

-Note: The project shouldn’t be a “fantasy”. Its feasibility should be proven in some ways (demo, mockups, proofs of concept, technical schemes), even though the technologies proposed might not yet be realized.

Awards / Prizes

Two prizes will be awarded by the jury along with two honorary mentions.

-1st prize: A trip for the winner or one representative of the winning team to Lisbon (including airfare and hotel) to present the results of their proposal during a talk, along with fabric | ch and TASML. Free viewing of the Triennial Close, Closer.

-2nd prize: 3000 RMB

-2 Honorary mentions

Award of Distinction

Price: 1000 US Dollars

This award is open to international submissions



About the collaborating Institutions:

fabric | ch is a Swiss based art and architecture studio that combines experimentation, exhibition and production. It formulates new architectural proposals and produces singular livable spaces that mingle territories, algorithms, “geo-engineered” atmospheres and technologies. Through their works, the architects and scientists of fabric | ch have investigated the field of contemporary spaces, from networked related environment to the interfacing of dimensions and locations such as their recent works about “spatial creolization”.

Close, Closer, the third Lisbon Architecture Trienale will put forward an alternative reading of contemporary spatial practice from the 12th of September to the 15th of December in Lisbon, Portugal. For three months chief curator Beatrice Galilee and curators Liam Young, Mariana Pestana and José Esparza Chong Cuy will examine the multiple possibilities of architectural output through critical and experimental exhibitions, events, performances and debates across the city.

 The purpose of the competition is to explore a radicalized experience of deterritorialisation / detemporalization through intensive use of network, transportation and sometimes biochemical devices as well as to investigate alternative strategies in lieu of corporate approaches to data, data centers and cloud computing. The competition aims to develop speculative and innovative artifacts (code, interfaces, programs, objects, devices, spaces, etc.) for this contemporary situation.

Inhabiting the Computers’ Cabinet competition (Deterritorialized Living, the Beijing sessions) will be an Associated Project during Close, Closer, the much anticipated Lisbon Architecture Triennale that will take place in late summer and fall of 2013, curated by Beatrice Galilee, Liam Young, Mariana Pestana and Jose Esparza Chong Cuy.