Security Design and Architecture: Hidden Strengths
Does security have to be as ugly as a jersey barrier? Or can it be both effective and attractive? Planners in the nation's capital are putting well-designed security to the test.
By Daintry Duffy
May 01, 2003 — CSO — The stately white mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has survived fire, scandal and an attack by the British. Someone even crashed a small plane into its facade. All the while, "America's House" has sat, just yards away from its citizens, as a powerful symbol of the freedom and accessibility of democratic government. But in recent years, a wave of security threats has added layer upon layer of visual armor to the grounds and surrounding streets. Now the once elegant White House, like much of Washington, D.C., resembles a cluttered, battle-weary fortress, apprehensive and unreachable.
But even as security threats continue to multiply, signs of a more touchable terrain are emerging in Washington. A new initiative spearheaded by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) is putting forward the almost treasonous idea that security and historic urban design can coexist
The concentration of high-risk iconography in such a small area makes Washington the ideal test bed for what security and landscape design can achieve together. But the NCPC's project is about a lot more than urban beautification. It's founded on the notion that security doesn't have to look and feel so oppressive. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, so many of the security measures at airports, national landmarks and public gathering places that are aimed at making citizens safer
"The fundamental paradox in security is that it seldom makes you feel secure," says Richard Farson, president of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. "When you have armed guards going through baggage at the airport and the government is issuing alerts, people become very anxious and afraid. But safety measures can be unobtrusive. People don't even have to know they exist."