Global Switch London East

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 15.01.08According to Global Switch’s website London East is Europe’s largest purpose built data centre and it is a beast.

Located at East India Quay in the docklands (click on map to open in Google maps) the building is one of a cluster of buildings that must contain one of the largest concentrations of data anywhere in the world.

This is the first purpose built data centre that I have visited and there was a marked difference compared to the retrofitted offices I had seen up until to now, in aesthetic and scale.

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However, some of the aesthetics may have come from a nearby source. The building stands alongside Nicholas Grimshaw’s Financial Times printworks (on the right above), which was converted into a data centre in the late 1990s and some elements of Global Switch’s newer building seem to be delivered from this earlier data centre.

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The rounded steel clad stairwells that stand around from the main building and animate the facade of Grimshaw’s FT building appear supersize in Global Switch’s purpose built data centre. Of course there are many logical reasons for removing the stairwells from a building and it is often done, but seeing the buildings side by side this seems like a progression. The rectangular steel cladding on the FT building has also found its way across to the new building.

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As with the retrofitted data centres reflective (or frosted) glass features heavily on the facades and there are very visible security cameras. In fact the security guard did wave me away from the building, but didn’t bother to get up from his desk and come talk to me.

The major notable difference was that this building was making less effort to disguise itself. It is indeed plain, and takes much of its aesthetic from the commercial office, but it stands proudly in its environment. This is best expressed by the fact that while most data centres barely have a sign that says the name of the building’s owner, London East proudly displays Global Switch’s logo (see below).

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