Philippe Braquenier

2012 - Ongoing


The natural foundations of our memory are slowly collapsing. Remembering as a basic human activity is turning into an underrated exercise. This is because more and more information is externalized on portable devices, hard drives and online cloud services. Mankind’s burgeoning desire is to rescue every bit of information from obscurity and safeguard scientific and cultural knowledge. Yet, to do so means that we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology and digital media.

The acceleration of technology introduces some serious risks. It dangers the preservation of entire bodies of knowledge. This is due to the decreasing life-span of digital formats and platforms used to storing mankind’s memory. Large scientific institutions like NASA have had to encounter the challenges of digital revolution with diligence. Their efforts have been progressively focused on recovering data from complete obliteration from old file formats. This said, digital dark age is a factual threat if sustainable methods for safekeeping data are not addressed with urgency.

Philippe Braquenier's Palimpsest is a documentary project that crops up from this hastily developing technological landscape. It bears witness to the contemporary infrastructures of information repositories. In architecture, the word palimpsest is used to refer to the accumulation of design elements in a particular place over time. Braquenier’s photographs incorporate architectural, technological and natural components with impressive clarity. The libraries, data centres and both natural and built environments Braquenier approaches, hold a strong reference to the legacies of human knowledge.

The proximity of natural and technological milieus seems to propose a dependency in which one cannot exist without the other. Braquenier’s interest in the information depots expands from the question of their relationship to landscape and urban infrastructures, to what is required to sustain the archives of human history. The aesthetic quality of Braquenier’s work is exquisite and well-measured. It points us to consider our forever sprouting interactions with technology.

{{ readMoreButton }}

  • 726 : 2 – 523.6
    Montserrat Abbaye
    Montserrat, Spain (460.23)
    Google has scanned 23,400 books that belong to the Monastery of Montserrat
    without payment. Father Damià Roure, the library director at the monastery,
    never imagined that Google could make money with the numerous copies
    of his books. Curiously, I was being refused access to the library. The official
    argument was that the facility is strictly reserved for the Christian community.

  • 727 : 006.92
    Swiss Federal Office of Metrology, Bern, Switzerland (494.24) "02014.03.17"
    FOCS 1 is a continuous cold caesium fountain atomic clock located in Switzerland. It started operating in 02004 at an uncertainty of one second in every 30 million years, thereby becoming one of the world’s most accurate and unique devices for measuring time. FOCS 1 is one of the five atomic clocks in the Swiss Federal Office of Metrology (METAS) Time and Frequency Laboratory that provide the data used to compute Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). The BIPM was established in 01875 to administer the International System of Units. The METAS laboratory is secured from external vibration and fluctuations in temperature and humidity. The main objectives of the laboratory are to participate in the realisation of the International Atomic Time Standard (TAI) and to be part of the ground station system for the 02016 Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES) mission in which primary atomic clocks will be operated in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station and compared with atomic clocks on Earth.

  • 001.32 : 621.039
    CERN, Geneva, Switzerland (494.42) – A "02014.03.19"
    The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN, is a provisional body founded in 01952 with the mandate of establishing world-class fundamental physics research in Europe. The latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It took thousands of scientists, engineers, and technicians to plan and build it over the course of several decades. The LHC experiments produce over 30 PB of data per year. The information is transferred to the data centre, where the initial data reconstruction and archiving are performed. Over 100 PB of data regarding the experiments are backlogged to CERN’s mass storage systems. The 95,000 processor cores and 10,000 servers housed in the 1,450 m2 data centre, run all year around. A remote extension of CERN is hosted at the Wigner Research Centre for Physics in Hungary. The CERN and Wigner data centres are connected via two independent and dedicated 100 Gbps circuits, with a bandwidth equivalent to transferring five full DVDs per second.

  • 620.3 : 006.922
    University of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Switzerland (494.43) "02014.03.18"
    This is one of the tiniest miniaturised atomic clocks in the world. Atomic clocks are the most accurate time standards, regulated in correspondence with the vibrations of particular atomic or molecular systems. The future plan is to add atomic clocks in portable devices to improve the synchronisation of communication networks and increase transfer rates through high accuracy coordination between devices. Atomic clocks are useful in telecommunications for time multiplexing techniques. When transferring data from Point A (e.g. a mobile phone) to Point B (e.g. a base station of the cellular network), atomic clocks allow multiple users to transmit information packets on a single channel or frequency. This requires highly accurate synchronisation of emitters and receivers to identify time gaps between each of the signals. The more accurate the clock, the more data can be sent through a single channel.

  • 727 : 02 (493.21)
    Joseph Cuvelier repository (State Archives of Belgium, National Archives 2), Brussels, Belgium (493.21) "02015.10.08"
    The Joseph Cuvelier repository, also known as the National Archives 2, is based in the old site of the Haeseldonckx paper mills. The main building, now owned by the State Archives of Belgium, was built in 01912 by the renowned Belgian architect Fernand Bodson. It has since been refurbished and extended several times. Due to the historical value of its facade, roofing, and bearing structures as well as some of the interior elements, the building is on the heritage list by the Commission Royale des Monuments et des Sites (CRMS), the consultative heritage body of Brussels. When carrying out any repair or renewal work to the building where the alteration affects the building’s special architectural or historical interest, consent from CRMS will be required.

  • 726 : 2 – 523.6
    Biblioteca dei Girolamini, Napoli, Italy (450.721) "02015.08.24"
    Biblioteca dei Girolamini is a library associated with the Church and Convent of the Girolamini in Naples, Italy. It was founded in 01586 and serves as the oldest library in the city. During its long history, the library has been a home to nearly 150,000 volumes, including 5,000 from the sixteenth century, and 120 books known as incunabula, printed before 01501. In December 02013, a news report was published on the systematic looting of the Biblioteca dei Girolamini. Images showed empty shelves and tables piled with papers. The director, Marino Massimo de Caro, was involved in the case. De Caro was arrested soon after investigations began in 02012. It was then disclosed that vehicle loads of books had been removed and sold by the now-convicted suspects, De Caro included. Five hundred stolen books ended up at a German auction house, which gave the thieves a million euros in advance for the batch before they were finally caught.

  • 004.383.2
    Wikileaks (Pionen Data Centre), Stockholm, Sweden (485*01) "02014.11.04"
    Wikileaks has multiple servers in Sweden and Iceland to optimise the safety of its data. In 02010, The Swedish Pirate Party made a deal with Julian Assange to host several new Wikileaks servers. In addition, the party provided free bandwidth to assist the organisation with its efforts to increase the transparency and accountability of political establishments internationally. Wikileaks opted to move some of its servers to Pionen, a former civil defence centre built in the White Mountains in the Södermalm Borough, Stockholm. The facility was originally constructed in 01943 during the Second World War to protect essential government functions from air raids. The underground bunker was converted into a data centre by the Swedish broadband provider Banhof in 02008. The bunker is buried under a hoard of 30 m of granite, secured by 40 cm thick door, backed up with generators from German submarines, and is only accessible via a single entrance tunnel. This said, the likelihood of law enforcement to physically seize or destroy the organisation’s equipment is much less than that of a legal attempt to gain direct access to Wikileaks’ data.

  • 621.039.7
    The Meuse / Haute-Marne Centre
    CMHM / The Underground Research
    Laboratory LSMHM
    Bure, France (443.74) "02017.11.14"
    The French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA) was established by the national 01991 Waste Act as the public body in charge of the long-term management of all radioactive refuse in France. The LSMHM Underground Research Laboratory in Bure, ANDRA’s main research facility, focusses on studying the implications of the geological disposal of high-level and long-lived intermediate-level radioactive waste in the Callovo-Oxfordian clay formation. Due to the exceptionally long lifespan of Plutonium 239 (24,000 years) and Uranium 238 (4.5 billion years), ANDRA is committed to informing
    and educating future generations about the nature of radioactive waste. Ensuring
    safe management over the long term, ANDRA provides general information on all radioactive waste located in France. The agency is committed to safeguarding the memory of every French disposal facility, and to do so, their tree-structure documentation for managing the site(s) in the future is archived both at the ANDRA research centre and the French National Archive. Additionally, ANDRA’s creative initiative ‘Memory for Future Generations’ brought together a group of artists, linguists, and archaeologists, among others, to consider creative solutions and markers for specific sites that could help warn future generations about the dangers buried underground.

  • 159.953 : 7.092
    Competitors at the World Memory, Championship in London (100) "02012-02013"
    Created in 01991 by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene, the World Memory Championships is a memory sports competition in which attendants have to memorise, within a given timeframe, as much information as possible: numbers, binary digits, random lists of words, names, faces, historical dates, and abstract images. The championships are now administrated by the World Memory Sports Council, which oversees the rules that govern all memory sports competitions. One of the council's main objectives is to ensure fair play through its ethics committee.

  • 004.383.2
    Space Station Data Centre, Kista, Sweden (485) "02014.11.05"
    The Space Station Data Centre is the first modular data hub created by the Swedish broadband provider Banhof. The installation functions as a mobile and inexpensive shelter for servers, which utilises the outside temperature to keep them cool. The construction features a spacious double-wide module built of bullet-proof steel to protect the servers. These various armour blocks are connected to ‘The Dome’, an inflatable central vestibule that accommodates the security staff. The entire apparatus stands on red lava stones imported from Iceland. To emphasise the otherworldliness of the data centre, the opening mechanisms of the data centre doors make an identical sound to the doors on the spaceship in the film Alien.

  • 621 : 004.056
    ARNANO, Grenoble, France (445.64) "02014.03.20"
    ARNANO, a French company specialising in microelectronic technology, has created perennial support for microscopic engraving technologies. Microscopic engraving is a technology used for archiving purposes due to the longevity of its results. The method is executed on ultra-resistant wafers made of synthetic sapphire. The wafers are often no more than 200 mm in diameter with a resolution of 20 nm. All types of information can be recorded on this extremely durable support. Synthetic sapphire can resist fire and acid and remain intact for several millennia. The technology used to produce the disks is called mineral thermolithography. It is based on the thermal exposure of a thin reactive metal film. After the surface preparation, the metal film is fixed on the sapphire disk. Following this, the information is engraved on the wafer with a laser, and the exposed areas are removed. The production costs around 5,000 euros per disk. Arnano uses the same technology to create dials for luxury watches, their principal source of income.

  • 022.43
    Topography of Knowledge "02012-02017"

  • 027.54
    Royal Library of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium (493.21) "02012.05.29"
    The Royal Library is one of the most prestigious institutions in Belgium. It has its origins in the fifteenth century, in a unique collection of illuminated manuscripts amassed by Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, from 01419 to 01467. Philip the Good’s collection consisted of approximately 900 volumes at the time of his death. Nearly a hundred years later, in 01559, Philip II of Spain granted the collection the title ‘Royal Library of Belgium’. It was opened to the public in 01839. A few years later, the old collections of the City of Brussels were acquired by the new Royal Library. The construction of the new library building was finished in 01969. The Royal Library collections now host over 6 million volumes and 150 km of shelves spread over seventeen floors.

  • 728.2 : 621.395.7
    AT&T Long Lines, New York, USA (734.7) "02015.07.15"
    The Long Lines Building, a showpiece of Brutalist architecture in Manhattan, hosts a set of large long-distance telephone exchange switches that connect US phone networks with international trans-oceanic lines. Reportedly, AT&T has always maintained close ties with the US government, and it has been one of the most central co-operators in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance efforts. Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provide compelling evidence that 33 Thomas Street has served as an NSA surveillance site, with the code name TITANPOINTE. The leaked NSA documents reveal that one of TITANPOINTE’s functions is to conduct surveillance as part of a programme called SKIDROWE, which focuses on intercepting satellite communications. Federal Communications Commission records confirm that the Long Lines Building is the only location in New York City where AT&T, code named LITHIUM, has an FCC licence for satellite earth stations. The SKIDROWE spying programme focuses on covertly vacuuming up Internet data – known as ‘digital network intelligence’ – as it is passing between foreign satellites. The harvested data are then made accessible through XKEYSCORE, a Google-like mass surveillance system that the NSA’s employees use to search through huge quantities of information about people’s emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and Internet browsing histories.

  • 727 : 02
    Louis De Cordier
    Sierra Nevada, Spain (460.35)
    Biblioteca Del Sol is a library and an archive that preserves important knowledge
    for future generations. It was founded by the Belgian artist Louis De Cordier in 02009. The archive houses thousands of books, blueprints, maps, and even a collection of seeds. It is built under the ground in the high mountains of Andalusia, Spain with the help of architects specialised in bunker construction. The site was chosen with certain technical specificities in mind to optimise the safety of the collection. The high altitude, dry weather, and absence of seismic activity and nuclear power plants in the area are some of the reasons for the archive’s location. The philanthropic project seeks to record and preserve the essence of human culture in its many forms and is continuously updated with records of life on earth in its broadest spectrum. De Cordier hopes that the library will stand as an inspiring symbol of human aspirations; promoting art, science, and spirituality; and emphasising sustainability as its core theme.

  • 7.031.1 « 632 » : 7.026
    The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France (445.62) "02015.08.28"
    The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc in southeast France is a cave that houses the earliest known and most well-preserved figurative cave paintings in the world. It was believed that the earliest cave paintings were made approximately 22,000–18,000 BC, but the evidence collected during the past fifteen years has revealed that there were two distinct periods of human activity in the cave, one from 37,000 to 33,500 BC, and the other from 31,000 to 28,000 BC. Discovered on December 18 in 01994, the cave has since been considered one of the most significant prehistoric sites in France. As a result, UNESCO granted it World Heritage status on June 22 in 02014. The cave has been closed to the public since its discovery. Access is severely restricted owing to the experience with other decorated caves, such as the Lascaux in southwest France, found in the twentieth century. There, the mass admission of visitors has led to the growth of mould on the walls, which has notably contributed to the erosion of the paintings in places.

  • 7.031.1 « 632 » : 7.026
    Pont-d’Arc Cavern, Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France (445.62) "02016.07.06"
    The Pont-d’Arc Cavern is the largest decorated cave replica in the world. It features an extraordinary collection of paintings, drawings, and engravings reproduced from the original Chauvet Cave, closed to the public since its recovery in 01994. The construction of the replica began in October 02012 and it was opened to the public in 02015. The cavern covers 3,000 m2 of floor surface. Moreover, 150 km of metal rods were welded to form grids imitating the shapes of the original cave. The replica is enveloped by 8,000 of geomorphically diverse walls. Based on 6,000 images, sculptors were invited to model the wall surfaces with special mortars. To create facsimiles of the original cave decorations, they worked with pigments and charcoal, the same materials as their distant ancestors. The ambition was to create an environment that would resemble the original Chauvet Cave as closely as possible. This meant having the characteristics of the subterranean climate, including humidity and darkness.