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We once thought of the internet as something invisible and used ‘the virtual’ to describe it. The data centres that make it possible for all those bytes to flow properly, however, are very real places that are generally characterized by a sober, industrial look. To brighten things up – and to make the company’s architecture live up to the dynamic nature of the information it houses – Chinese internet-service outfit Cloud DCS asked Italian architect Alberto Puchetti and his Hong Kong-based firm, Arboit Limited to plan and realize its Guangzhou headquarters. The ultimate goal was the creation of an iconic brand identity that would stand out ‘in a competitive Chinese IT market that has generally shown no interest in design’.

The building is at the centre of the Pearl River Delta, a fast-growing tech hub that borders the South China Sea. The interior of the nearly 2,000-m2 headquarters has a twofold nature: server rooms filled with buzzing machines and cooling pipes painted in different colours share the space with more human-orientated areas for staff and visitors. The latter are bathed in white and seven shades of blue, Cloud DCS’s signature palette. A sleek, celestial atmosphere permeates lobby, offices, and meeting and control rooms.

The centrepiece of Arboit Limited’s concept – streaming clouds, a vital part of the client’s corporate identity – is a 1,050-m2 showroom featuring various multimedia installations that highlight the services offered by Cloud DCS. On display are technical gadgets, accessories, 3D video screens made from plastic balls, interactive videos and more. Throughout the space, curves and reflective surfaces bearing images of clouds printed on resin or plastic film provide warmth and depth. Complementing prints on the floor is a layered ceiling-mounted sculpture that extends a full 30 m. It consists of fabric-covered metal profiles that symbolize digital communication across the globe.

The overall idea was to turn the impersonality of a typical IT workplace into a more pleasant environment and to imbue a Chinese workplace with a dash of American flair. Tables holding architectural models of future industrial parks proposed for the area suggest that Arboit and Cloud DCS intend to continue their collaboration.

Photos Dennis Lo

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