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Design That Ensures Security, Also Emphasizes Style

Jul 21, 20104 mins
Build AutomationPhysical SecuritySecurity

Can security, often seen as obvious and ugly, actually be stylish and suitable for a building? Architect Rick Reeder gives us a tour of a property he designed with artful security as the goal

From bright yellow bollards, to iron gates, to jersey barriers, perimeter security is not typically the most attractive part of a building. But perhaps these elements don’t need to be an eyesore. Is it possible to make a building that requires heavy security both secure and stylish?

Rick Reeder, architect and owners of the firm designStream, is proof that security can look good. Reeder designs what he calls “artful security.” His designs keep dangerous intruders out without reminding everyone in the area that the building is highly secure.

We toured the perimeter security of a building in downtown Boston that Reeder had designed and he explained his creations and inspirations.

Anti-ram Bench The first thing we looked at is what Reeder calls an anti-ram bench. It is a massive stone block shaped similarly to a boat and is cut up in several chunks. The structure, a thirty-five-foot slab of black granite weighing 43,000 pounds, sits at the entrance of the building as a deterrent. It plays a security role similar to bollards.

“It seemed to me it would have been easy enough to put bollards here. But a string of bollards would have been overstating the case for security. So I wanted a device that was disassociated from security,” explained Reeder.

The shape of the block and its placement on the sidewalk give the illusion of a boat sitting in water on a busy day.

“If you were to look at a flow chart it basically sits as a stone in water. And the people, as they walk down the street, flow around it very gently,” he said

Reinforced Planters When Reeder was asked to design security components around the building, it already had some elements in place that were put there by the previous architect. They included large planters around most of the edge. While their main purpose was to showcase flowers, Reeder pointed out that they also serve a security purpose.

“These planters were built sometime before 9/11. I know they happen to be heavily reinforced. So we were able to use them as part of perimeter security. They were fortunately already an integral part of the design of the building. So they match well.”

Bollards While the anti-ram bench takes the place of bollards at the building’s main entrance, Reeder did place some bollards at other points of the perimeter that posed potential vulnerabilities. The bollards are cast out of stainless steel, are roughly five hundred pounds apiece and are extremely sturdy, said Reeder. The tops have a ripple-like pattern for aesthetic purposes.

“On the top I wanted to highlight the bollard with a little reflectivity,” said Reeder. “We ended up putting this corrugated or ripple-fold top on it, just for interest. But, fortuitously, it is so polished and picks up light from so many different angles, that it actually looks like it’s internally lit at times.”

Reeder also noted the bollards are set no farther than five feet on center because most smaller-model cars are a little over five feet wide. Placing bollards no farther than that distance apart ensures even the smallest of cars can’t pass through the opening to reach the building.

Guard booth The building has a custom guard booth that Reeder said was designed to fit into what were originally planters. One planter was emptied of plants and soil and the booth was custom designed to fit in the space. Reeder said initial plans called for removing that planter, paving over the location and dropping in what he referred to as an “off- the-shelf colonial guard booth.”

“But that would have been inappropriate to the architectural design.” Instead, the custom booth that stands today fits in with the design of the building, he noted

The security features we examined on our tour are all elements that both serve a purpose but also add to the beauty of the building. Reeder pointed again to the anti-ram bench as an example of how he used the downtown, urban setting as inspiration.

“If I were in the suburbs, I dont think I would do a polished stone like this,” he said. “This is more in my mind urbane and downtown. In this environment, this is more natural to the streetscape.”

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