• United States



by CSO Staff

The Security Design Coalition

Nov 08, 20023 mins
Critical Infrastructure

Security Design Coalition founder Marcia August talks about bollards, bombs and the design of public spaces

After 9/11, temporary security features became part of the landscape in Washington, D.C.: Jersey barriers, bollards, fences—you name it. Suddenly and without notice, streets would close to traffic as a precaution.

Now, as temporary becomes quasipermanent, a collective of interested groups, including design experts such as the American Society of Landscape Architects and economic groups such as the Greater Washington Board of Trade, has formed. It’s calling itself the Security Design Coalition (SDC), and in late September it held its first symposium. There, security experts met with design experts and, for the first time, talked about working together.

The SDC hopes to use its own backyard, the capital, as a national model for public design that provides security while maintaining both functional and aesthetic virtues. CSO spoke with Marcia Argust, former head of the SDC, about the new group and about what she sees as the future of secure public spaces.

CSO: How was the first symposium?Marcia Argust: People at the conference were starting to ask if all these security measures that they had kind of accepted at first were actually useful. Are the barriers and fences there to actually deter terrorists or to make the average Joe feel better? One guy in his presentation was talking about a public place in Chicago where they put up jersey barriers but didn’t want to damage the granite sidewalks. So they put the barriers on polystyrene protectors. This actually makes the jersey barriers missiles if something like a car bomb is set off.

What else came up at the symposium?

There was talk about how we can better use IT, with surveillance and so forth. We talked about the difference between the eastern United States and the western United States in terms of security perception. [The East is more concerned.] Overall, the reaction was Wow. People who hadn’t been talking before in the design world and security world were suddenly talking and learning.

What spurred you to form the SDC?

It wasn’t just one thing. All these measures were taken, and we just didn’t know who was making the decision to arbitrarily close streets or put jersey barriers up. There was no process.

Do jersey barriers work?

As a temporary solution, often yes. But there are too many here in D.C., and often they are supposed to be a temporary solution and they become permanent. We’re seeing more folks who are saying this looks terrible, especially in our capital and at the Capitol.

What’s the future of secure design?

I think we will see fewer jersey barriers, a lot more of the hardened street furniture [think immobile cement benches] and much more use of landscape elements. Take a corporate campus. They will start to think about how their driveways lead to the building. Surveillance will be taken into account. Terracing as a deterrent. There’s so many things you can do.

To read more about the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Security Design Coalition, visit