noun pa-limp-sest \ pa-l m(p)- sest, p - lim(p)-\
: a very old document on which the original writing has been erased 
and replaced with newer writing.
: something that has changed over time and shows evidence of that change.
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.

Words by Dana Benlakhdar
02012 - Ongoing​​​​​​​
23 × 29 cm, 118 pages, ills colour, single sheets, metal paper fasteners
ISBN 9789490800819
design: 6’56”
edition of 500
May 2018

The book is available via Art Paper Editions​​​​​​​
Google Data Centre, Baudour, Belgium (493.5) "02013.08.20"
Google refused to grant me access to its data centre in Belgium. During a meeting, the head of communications of the Baudour complex told me that ‘No one has ever come in, and no one ever will’. The immediate area around the Google  facility is camouflaged by woods and artificial dunes. The security company G4S’s surveillance cars patrol the area around the clock. No obvious indication refers to the existence of Google’s data centre in St-Ghislain. Instead, the signposting points to a company called Crystal Computing. My research later revealed that the latter is a subsidiary of Google.
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.
001.32 : 551.2 
Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium, Brussels, Belgium (493.21)  "02015.01.29"
The Royal Meteorological Institute (RMI) of Belgium was established in 01823. It is a federal institute engaged in scientific research in the field of meteorology. The first meteorological forecast of RMI in 01876 was based on an analysis of a synoptic map. All RMI’s past and current weather data are now stored on digital servers. This information, executed and shared internationally, aids the research on climate patterns and contributes to the understanding of global warming.
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.
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.
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.
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.
727 : 006.915 
Swiss Federal Office of Metrology, Bern, Switzerland (494.24)  "02014.03.17"
Inside this vault sits one of the six official copies of the International Prototype Kilogram (IPK), the original artefact that defines at present the unit of mass in accordance with the International System of Units (SI). The kilogram is the only base unit that is still defined by a physical object rather than a physical property that may be reproduced in a laboratory. The IPK is of cylindrical form, with a diameter and height of about 39 mm, and it is made of an alloy of 90 per cent platinum and 10 per cent iridium. Chemical interactions with the atmosphere may cause micro-material losses in the IPK, despite its constitution. Hence, the original and its copies are kept under strictly defined conditions specified by the First General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in 01889. In fact, every year the standard kilogram changes weight, and of the six official copies, one has lost about 5 µg while two other copies have gained more than 50 µg of mass. Access to the IPK and its copies is supervised by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). The current definition of kilogram is likely to be officially redefined in terms of the Planck constant in 02018. The Planck constant (h) links the amount of energy a photon carries with the frequency of its electromagnetic wave. The dimension of Planck’s constant is the product of energy multiplied by time, a quantity called action. Therefore, Planck’s constant is often defined as the elementary quantum of action.
Public Library of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden (485*01)  "02014.11.05"
The Public Library of Stockholm has more than 2 million volumes and 2.4 million audio tapes, CDs, and audio books. The library is waiting for an extension but the project was put on hold in late 02009 after the election of the new city council. The air in the basement of the library is polluted by radon, a radioactive, colourless, and odourless gas, which occurs naturally as an indirect decay product of uranium and thorium.
Topography of Knowledge "02012-02017"
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.
726 : 2 – 523.41
Cathedral of Tournai, Tournai, Belgium (493.5) "02014.10.16"
The archives and library of the Cathedral of Tournai are still preserved in the cathedral rooms built in 01676–01680. The collections date back to the eleventh century and the oldest manuscript is dated around the year 01000. During the First World War, an incendiary bomb was hurled onto the roof of the cathedral. However, thanks to the original design of the cathedral rooms, the brick ceiling contained the fire and hence the documents remained intact.
E40 interchange, Brussels, Belgium (493.21)  "02016.07.08"
According to Christian De Buysscher, the former director of the administrative body of transportation (AED) in the Brussels-Capital Region, important federal archives concerning the capital’s road infrastructure have been stored in the bridge pillars of the intersection that connects the E40 highway from Liège to the Auguste Reyers Boulevard in Brussels. The location of the federal archives was discovered during a special study by the regional Government of Brussels. The study disclosed that  several of Brussels’ road tunnels were deteriorating. The reason for the unusual location of the archives goes back to the establishment of the Brussels Agglomeration in 01971, a decentralised administrative public body that assumed jurisdiction over areas, which, elsewhere in Belgium, were exercised by municipalities or provinces. Nineteen years later, this constitutional revision led to the establishment of the Brussels-Capital Region. During the period of transition, AED found refuge in a hotel room, as no other facilities were readily available. For this same reason, the federal archives were deposited in the bridge piers of E40.
002.6 : 025.45 
Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium (493.51)  "02013.03.09"
The Mundaneum is a non-profit organisation that guards the legacy of the original Mundaneum archive, established in 01910 by the Belgian lawyers Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine. As part of their research on documentation studies, the repository  aimed to gather together all the world’s knowledge using a system called the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). After several relocations, the Mundaneum moved to a converted 01930s department store in Mons, Belgium, where the collections have been housed since 01998. The lack of resources led the institution to store their documents in an anarchic way. With the help of public and private investors, the building has been completely renovated and was opened to the public in June 02015.
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.
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.