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2021 Rotch Finalist: Kyle Barker AIA

Barker Headshot use

Kyle Barker AIA is a Senior Associate at MERGE Architects, where he leads academic, commercial and multi-family housing projects across the United States. He is a registered architect in Massachusetts and an active member of the Boston Society of Architects. Prior to joining Merge in 2016, Kyle was an Associate at MASS Design Group and a Designer at Kennedy & Violich Architecture.

Kyle received his Master of Architecture from the MIT Department of Architecture where he was the recipient of the Alpha Rho Chi Medal, Rosemary D. Grimshaw Thesis Prep Award, Louis C. Rosenberg Travel Fellowship and three Departmental Merit Scholarships. In addition, he was a finalist for the 2017 Rotch Traveling Scholarship and the nationwide selection for the 2013 ZGF Architectural Scholarship.

Kyle has taught studio at the Boston Architectural College, workshops at MIT, and served as an awards juror for Architizer and the Massachusetts & Oklahoma chapters of the AIA. He is passionate about graphic design, prison reform, and new models of multi-family housing.

Preliminary Competition Entry

Kyle was the runner-up in last year's Rotch Competition, so he was automatically entered into the finals this year. He was not required to submit materials for the preliminary competition.

Barker Data Port 3

Soak up the hot springs

All text and images courtesy Kyle Barker AIA

Project Description

This project reimagines the data center typology to maximize its ability to shed heat. What would typically be expelled as “waste heat” is repurposed to sponsor a range of civic activities & one-of-a-kind experiences. The site—the only break in the Harbor Walk from its start in Charlestown—is transformed into a destination with a global reach, like the data it houses. Visit the desert. Visit the tropics. Soak up the hot springs. Luxuriate in the thermal baths. Jump on the splash pad. Whoosh down the waterslide. Swim like an Olympian. Run like a marathoner. Experience a geyser. Learn about data.

All of these experiences are made possible by the heat from the servers, which literally float across the historic dry dock as a single, meandering row. The pools are used as a heat sink, via a closed loop radiant system—“Direct to Chip Cooling” using non-flammable dielectric fluid—whose flexible piping is set into deep grooves in the flooring & walls of the pools; visible to its users, but out of reach. This technique utilizes the heat-carrying capacity of liquid, which is 3,500 times greater than air (Source) to cool the racks. This is the one time in Architecture where a maximal building envelope is the environmentally friendly, cost-effective choice! Although this approach minimizes the waste heat as air, one can never completely eradicate it; so, why not utilize it to inflate a one-hundred-foot-tall pneumatic greenhouse? The constancy of the waste air, typically a problem, allows for a monumental gesture on the scale of the Seaport. (And because the structure is year-round, even in the hot months, it raises the question, “What happens when you have too much air?” Answer: you power an artificial geyser as an evaporative cooling homage to the whales.)

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