Name: Pionen Data Centre
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Located 100 feet below the surface of Stockholm in a chamber capable of withstanding a hydrogen bomb, the Pionen White Mountains bunker seems a more befitting headquarters of a James Bond villain rather than a Swedish internet provider. Nevertheless, Bahnhof have transformed the former nuclear bunker into a fully-functioning data centre complete with office space and conference room.
Pionen’s transformation from abandoned military unit to innovative workspace
Pionen was originally used an anti-atomic shelter during the cold war. The facility is buried under thirty metres of granite rock, is only reachable by an entrance tunnel and is secured by 40cm thick solid steel doors. Nearly 20 years after Sweden’s Civil Defense decommissioned it, Bahnhof acquired the space to transform it into a colocation centre.
In 2007, Albert France-Lanord Architects were commissioned to renovate the 4,000 square foot space. Bahnhof needed to squeeze its backup generators and server racks into the caves and so the architects spent two years blasting away more than 4,000 cubic metres of solid granite. The transformation was completed in 2008, allowing Bahnhof to move into one of the most unique office environments in the world.
Architects were challenged with bringing natural elements into a subterranean world
The architects were asked to bring elements of the human world underground, such as plants, light, water and technology. Providing natural light was one of the biggest challenges for the architects. Their solution was a long tunnel that allows sunlight to filter through the underground space. Small mirrored buttresses reflect the natural light into several zones.
A number of other innovative features were introduced. A glass conference room is suspended above the main hallway and has a spaced-themed interior with lunar landscape flooring. Two German submarine engines have been salvaged from the cold war era and are used as a backup power source. To soften the brutalist design, architects also installed greenhouses, plants that are nourished via growth lights, artificial waterfalls and a 2600-litre saltwater fish tank.
Pionen briefly became the most famous data centre in the world in 2010 when whistleblowing website WikiLeaks used its colocation services to store their servers. These days, the WikiLeaks server system is little more than a bar ornament at the nearby Bahnhof Thule data centre. Visitors to the Pionen data centre end their tours here with a free beer.