Timothy Ou
The Information Exoskeleton:
A self organising architecture forged by human relationships

Thesis Supervisor: Wu Yen Yen

Site: Telephone House, City Hall, Singapore

The whole thesis is premised on the spatial manifestations of Starlink.  A global internet service provider launched by Elon Musk in 2019. The main scope of the thesis is to focus on Starlink’s main attribute of a peer to peer mode of sharing information.   This will inform the design of co-dependent spaces.  For example, the photo that I share with my friends on Instagram is no longer stored on Instagram’s own server ; instead because of Starlink, I am able to take full ownership of my own data, as I become my own server.

A new tower is designed in place of the existing telecommunication tower according to these new spatial guidelines.  With this tower, an architectural blind spot is transformed into inhabitable infrastructure, and

people now replace the cell towers. This new tower contains three stratifications that, firstly, question the value of ground space. Secondly, the tower creates a new cellular spatial typology.

 

Thirdly, this tower will question high value of real estate spaces. On an urban scale, the middle part of the tower acts as a catalyst for new clusters – inhabitable infrastructural spaces – to form an organic replicating network, populating rooftops once occupied by cell towers. 

With Starlink, people now replace physical cell towers as they relay information directly. They are now fully responsible of their data, while being dependent on others in their further gain and usage of information.

A Global Shift in Telecommunications

Starlink replaces the role of state-owned ground stations like those found on Sentosa and Bukit Timah, as everyone now becomes their ground station by possessing a Starlink receiver.  This role reversal has diverted the power from Singtel from managing their data into the hands of people.  Architectural footprints of the internet vis-à-vis sea cables, satellite ground stations, data centres, and relay towers were once the vehicles for transmitting information between people. However, with Starlink, there is a shift of power, as people now become the carriers and relay points of information.  

What Is Starlink ...

Launched by Elon musk in 2019, Starlink plans to launch a 42,000 strong satellite constellation orbiting the earth in low earth orbit. Currently, it has over 300 satellites orbiting the earth and launches 120 every month to reach its goal of achieving full global coverage by 2023. One merely has to purchase a pizza box size receiver from Starlink and be in a physically higher place to prevent other radio signals from interfering. A middleman in the flow of information is eliminated with Starlink.

Launched by Elon musk in 2019, Starlink plans to launch a 42,000 strong satellite constellation orbiting the earth in low earth orbit. Currently, it has over 300 satellites orbiting the earth and launches 120 every month to reach its goal of achieving full global coverage by 2023. One merely has to purchase a pizza box size receiver from Starlink and be in a physically higher place to prevent other radio signals from interfering. A middleman in the flow of information is eliminated with Starlink.

Site Location

The chosen site is located at an old telecommunication building – the central telephone exchange built in 1955.  This site was chosen because it is one of the only old stock buildings that was built in a tower typology.  With Starlink, height becomes an important factor as the higher you go, the better signal you will have. 

A Heterotopic Future

This collage shows a progression on the impact of telecommunications on the city, where historically, telecommunications has been used for military and commerce.  However, in this new heterotopic future, Starlink will enable a new series of interconnected roofscapes that appropriate old urban stock spaces.  A new tower that is catered to event and people reverse the value of real estate spaces as a new tower typology gives people access to height and thus the best connection to Starlink.  People will have a view and experience of the city otherwise not possible without this intervention.

Design Methodology
A New Social Logic of Space


The emergence of technologies like Starlink and Bitcoin reveal the change in human relationships. These technologies allow people to connect directly without the need of an intermediary.  Such co-dependent, peer-to-peer behaviour is premised on the logic of how people constantly wish to look at what, and how, their competitors or collaborators are doing. A spatial realization of this logic would involve clusters – containing growing numbers of people – which have been designed with certain defining characteristics. 

Spatial relationships of Bitcoin users


The architectural method used to derive new spatial relationships between users of a bitcoin marketplace stemmed from the architectural theory of discrete systems. A local rule established between specific users of the bitcoin marketplace results in the emergence of a global form. This local rule follows a social spatial logic of co-dependence, which create different spatial relationships dependent on the user’s competitive or collaborative behaviour. Hence, an architect must create spatial incentives for online communities to come together to meet physically. 

A New Spatial Parti

The four bitcoin user specific relationships are manifested through a unified hexagon. The hexagon was chosen as it was flexible enough to fulfil all four spatial relationships surrounding bitcoin users. This results in an open/closed cellular cluster that interlocks structurally, which gradually increases in size as it follows the size of people in the cluster. 

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Conclusion

These final model photos show the interior spaces and also the growing effect of clusters from an external point of view.

In conclusion, the role of the architect in this project has been to design co-dependent spaces in a way that provides spatial and programmatic incentives for online communities to meet in a physical space.  And finally, the role of the tower is to consider how cell towers are being replaced by people and will transform these architectural blind spots into inhabitable infrastructures.

View Zoom Critique here: