inspiration     Aug 26 2009

Data Detroit

Mapos LLC

If we had a dollar for every time we said to ourselves, “what is going to become of Detroit?” we’d be rich men. Well, our accountant may say otherwise, but that doesn’t stop us from pondering the ins, outs, ups, downs, and what-ifs for our favorite urban punching bag.

On a recent trip, I had taken my family on a bit of an urban scavenger hunt, travelling from abandoned building to empty lot to derelict factory. The result? An idea we call DATA DETROIT.

Detroit once was the global capital of the automobile industry. It was the hub of several transportation networks that both imported raw materials and labor to its factories and exported automobiles to the world.

Detroit is arguably still at the center of this network, though it is rapidly losing its industry and its work force leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned buildings and square miles of empty land.

Several cities in the North East US (the Rust Belt) and around the country are experiencing similar shifts in population and infrastructure.

Using its existing under-utilized infrastructure, Detroit could become the regional (and then global) capital of a new industry: the reclaiming, recycling, and re-purposing of automobiles, trains, ships, technologies and housing. The networks that once brought and sent materials and automobiles can now bring in used and abandoned consumer goods, strip them down to their base elements, and ship them out to interested buyers. Detroit’s excess building stock would serve as warehouses for these various goods.

– The GM and Ford plants would receive, recycle, and store automobiles.
– The River Rouge delta would become a recycling yard for boats and ships.
– The train yards would become the center for recycling locomotives and train cars.
– Various empty factories would recycle and store the growing number of technologies: cell phones, computers, TVs, etc.
– The empty neighborhoods would become massive yards to store and display the reclaimed and recycled housing stock being shipped to Detroit.

All of the commercial activity would likely happen online. Buyers could surf the multiple websites of the multiple recyclers looking for their desired goods. This would require server space. Millions of gigabytes of server space. A select number of abandoned buildings would become server farms – data centers – that would store the billions of photos, specs, and information on the world’s recycled materials. The new center of Detroit would be a symbol of its place in the new world economy.

– The Michigan Central Railway terminal would become the world’s largest data center.

Full of servers, it would be a beacon for Detroit and the first of many new data centers around the city. It would become the center a new digital network, linking Detroit to the world.

– The massive cooling loads needed for data centers would be engineered using natural ventilation. Wind “scoops” would be strategically placed to capture and direct the prevailing winds eliminating the need for air conditioning.
– The heat exhaust would be captured in a new mechanical factory on the roof for storage and heat exchange furnaces in the winter.