A) 19″ Living Rack

Project developed by Léa Pereyre

19” Living Rack is an open source variation around the standardized 19” computer server rack (or cabinet). Dedicated to be distributed in domestic environments for personal or for small size community uses, the modular base of the standard rack is getting combined with additional functions, to address this renewed small office/home office context.

In making clear reference to the famous Ch. Eames toy, the modular House of Cards project, the 19” Living Rack comes in one technical “Base” that can then be combined and customized into three different types: “Office”, “Home”, and “Garden”, to set up personal and somehow undersized data centers.

For each configuration, air flows have been taken into consideration and act as design and functional factors: the air in the front part of the rack remains temperate before entering the rack and cooling the servers, while the back and top air flows are getting warmed up and dried due to the computers heating process. “Office” functions comes therefore mainly in the front part of the rack, “Home” on the back where elements can be tempered or dried, while “Garden” comes on the top, equipped with moistened plants to clean, re-humidify, perfume and cool down the air.

A Personal Data Center (evolution, models)

Note: “A Personal Data Center” (working title) is part of a home cloud kit, which was described in a previous post and that will be composed by four various artifacts, both physical and digital.

The kit will be distributed freely at the end of the project.


After a few design iterations through sketches and a bit of 3D modelling, we recently produced a set of first prototypes of what our domestic 19″ server rack could look like and how it could handle domestic functions as well. As a matter of facts, we can consider this work an alternative approach to what was set up and analyzed at the beginning of our research, when we assembled our own “(small size) personal cloud infrastructure“.

Our approach was fueled by several references, the first one being House of Cards, by Ray and Charles Eames :





The modular, simple and intuitive assembly process guided us for its adequacy within a Do-It-Yourself user context.

“A Personal Cloud”: a home cloud kit for personal data (centers) / “reappropriate your dataself”!

We’re entering the final straight of the research project Inhabiting and Interfacing the Cloud(s) and we can give at this point a first glimpse of the four design artifacts we are working on at the moment. They will constitute the main outcomes of our joint experimental effort (ECAL, HEAD, EPFL-ECAL Lab) and a kind of “personal cloud kit” (explained below). These creations will be accompanied by two books: one will present the results of the ethnographic research about “the cloud”, the other will present the design research process and its results – both in pod/pdf.

We already pointed out in the recent post “Updated Design Scenario” where we were heading. Since then, the different projects were better identified and started to get shaped. Some got eliminated. Prototyping and further technical tests are running in parallel at the moment.



From the original “final scenario” sketch to …


… a “Personal Cloud Kit”, composed of various physical and digital modular artifacts.


What emerged reinforced from the main design scenario is that we seek to deliver four artifacts (some physical, some digital, some combined) which themselves will constitute the building blocks of what we’ll call “A Personal Cloud Kit”. All four parts of this kit will be openly accessible on a dedicated website (e.g. in a similar way to what OpenDesk is doing).

The purpose of this “home kit” is to empower designers, makers and citizens at large who would be interested to start develop their own cloud projects, manage or interact with their data or even to set up small scale personal data centers at their places (homes, offices, garages …)

Heating homes with Clouds – links


Using excess heat generated by data centers to warm homes isn’t a new idea. Earlier in our research we stumbled upon Qarnot, a french company proposing to decentralize the data center into meshed radiators to distribute computing resources across people’s homes (we’re guessing they took their name from Carnot’s Limit ;). They announced a partnership with the city of Paris to heat 350 low-income housings in 2013.

However, they are not the only rats in the race…

About hot and cold air flows (in data centers)



Both images taken from the website Green Data Center Design and Management /  “Data Center Design Consideration: Cooling” (03.2015). Source: http://macc.umich.edu.

ASHRAE is a “global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment”.


A typical question that arise with data centers is the need to cool down the overheating servers they contain. The more they will compute, the more they’ll heat, consume energy, but also will therefore be in need to be cooled down, so to stay in operation (wide range of operation would be between 10°C – 30°C). While the optimal server room temperature seem to be around 20-21°C, ~27°C for recent and professional machines (Google recommends 26.7°C).

The exact temperature of function is subject to discussion and depends on the hardware.

Yet, in every data center comes the question of air conditioning and air flow. In this case, it always revolves around the upper drawing (variations around this organization): 1° cold air aisles, floors or areas need to be created or maintained, where the servers will take their refreshing fluid and 2° hot air aisles, ceilings or areas need to be managed where the heated air will need to be released and extracted.

Second drawing shows that humidity is important as well depending on heat.


As hot air, inflated and lighter, naturally moves up while cold air goes down, many interesting and possibly natural air streams could be imagined around this air configuration …


World Brain: a journey through data centers

By Wednesday, February 18, 2015 Tags: 0098, A, Data, Datacenter, Hardware, Infrastructure Permalink 1

World Brain” by Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon (2015)



World Brain proposes a stroll through motley folkloric tales : data centers, animal magnetism, the Internet as a myth, the inner lives of rats, how to gather a network of researchers in the forest, how to survive in the wild using Wikipedia, how to connect cats and stones…
The world we live in often resembles a Borgesian story. Indeed, if one wanted to write a sequel to Borges’ Fictions, he could do it simply by putting together press articles.
The World Brain is made out mostly of found materials : videos downloaded on Youtube, images, scientific or pseudo scientific reports, news feeds… [...] World Brain takes the viewer through a journey inside the physical places by which the Internet transits: submarine cables, data centers, satellites. The film adopts the point of view of the data. The audience view the world as if they were information, crossing the planet in an instant, copied in an infinite number of instances or, at the contrary, stored in secret places.


More projects by S. Degoutin and G. Wagon on their Nogovoyage website.