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Google Declares War on Boring Data Center Walls
Mural by Jenny Odell on one of the walls of Google’s Mayes County, Oklahoma, data center (Photo: Google)

Google Declares War on Boring Data Center Walls

Partners with artists in US and Europe to paint murals on the walls of its server farms

Usually, if you drive by a data center, there is little indication that the huge gray building you are passing houses one of the engines of the digital economy. Sometimes, if you happen to be a data center geek, you may deduce the facility’s purpose from observing a fleet of massive cooling units along one of its walls, but even those often hide from plain sight.

Data centers by and large are non-descript, and many, if not most, in the industry like to keep it that way. After all, the fewer people know where a facility that’s critical to a nation’s economy (a stock exchange data center), or one that’s critical to a nation’s security (a mission-critical US Navy data center) is located, the better.

But Google has decided to flaunt the huge server farms it has built around the world. From images and videos the company has released in the past, the insides of these facilities are works of art. Here's a 360-degree tour inside one of them:

Now, the company wants their external walls to both reflect their function in society and be a pleasure to look at.

“Because these buildings typically aren’t much to look at, people usually don’t—and rarely learn about the incredible structures and people inside who make so much of modern life possible,” Joe Kava, VP of Google Data Centers, wrote in a blog post.

In what it dubbed the “Data Center Mural Project,” Google has hired four artists to paint murals on the walls of four of its data centers: in Mayes County, Oklahoma; St. Ghislain, Belgium; Dublin, Ireland; and Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The artists were tasked with portraying each building’s function and reflecting the community it’s in.

The murals in Oklahoma and Belgium have been completed, and the remaining two are in progress.

Jenny Odell, the artist who worked on the Mayes County project, used Google Maps imagery to create large collages, each reflecting a different type of infrastructure in use today (Photo: Google):

google oklahoma mural

Oli-B, who painted the mural on a wall of Google’s St. Ghislain data center, created an abstract interpretation of “the cloud.” He used elements specific to the surrounding community, as well as the data center site and the people who work there (Photo: Google).

The four sites are just the start. The company hopes to expand the Data Center Mural Project to more locations.

More images and video on the Data Center Murals Project website.

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