Advanced Design Studio: Berke

Berke: Reykjavik



Design and Visualization



with Noah Biklen

''All human beings have three lives -public, private, and secret."- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"The fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a greater danger to the privacy of the
"- Earl Warren, 1963.

"Secrecy is for losers . ... " Senator Patrick Moynihan, 1998.


Course Description

In this studio we will design an institute and advocacy center located in Reykjavik, Iceland dedicated to issues of digital transparency, internet privacy, and free speech.

Iceland is emerging as a potential global free speech safe haven apace with the needs of our contemporary digital age. Iceland's 2008 banking crisis provoked widespread concern about issues of corporate and governmental transparency and raised questions regarding the role of the internet in public life. In the aftermath of the crisis, Iceland's parliament's passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), which attempts to rethink the necessary protection of free speech in the internet era, the Icelandic court ordered credit card companies to process donations to Wikileaks, and social media platforms provided an arena to advance a crowd sourced alternative constitution. Iceland boasts the highest percentage of households with connection to the internet in Europe and a nascent industry in geothermal powered data centers.

This studio project- the design of an institute dedicated to issues of internet freedom- takes place within the context of an ongoing and contested international debate about the relationship between internet privacy, access, free speech, and security. We will begin the semester by researching the "architecture" of the internet, data-mining and surveillance, changing understandings of privacy, the politics of access, encryption protocols, and open-source networks. Through sketch problems and the analysis of architectural precedents we will explore the spatial implications of digital surveillance and privacy. Finally, we will trace the architecture and visual style of "cypherpunk" culture, surveillance, and internet activism through film -the glow of the computer screen, fluorescent lighting and reflective glass, the sleek whites, grays and blacks, the alluring repetition of the powder-coated servers, the distinct hum of data storage facilities, the hoodie.

After the studio trip to Iceland the students will begin the design of the 50,000 sf institute and its site in Reykjavik. The studio program will include public spaces for receptions, events, lectures, and installations, studio spaces for audio-visual production and transmissions, lab spaces for workshops, office and back of house spaces, a guest house for visiting scholars and researchers, and an approach to digital security and storage.

This studio takes as its premise that architecture has a role to play in the debate about digital protections, access, and security. What is the architecture of digital freedom and radical transparency? This studio will examine the spatial implications of the tension between user friendly accessibility and the cumbersome requirements of encryption. Students will be asked to confront the performative requirements for the architectural envelope in regards to the Icelandic climate and energy use, daylight control, institutional brand identity, and transparency. We will explore the ideas of threshold between open and secure spaces, the demands for adaptability required of spaces that incorporate technology, and the relationship between virtual surveillance and physical space. Through the lens of architecture we will challenge the well-worn binaries of open/closed, transparent/opaque, public/private, and seamless/discontinuous. The studio will work primarily in perspective and model, with emphasis on the relationship between digital processes and materiality.

During our trip to Iceland we will stay in Reykjavik, study the site, meet with local legislators, activists and experts, visit data centers, and take a tour of the Icelandic landscape. During the semester we will also meet with investigative journalists and experts on digital security and anonymity in New York City.