Architectural Bollards, and the Security of America

Having worked on a multi storey highrise office building in Manhattan for the last three and a half years, the article in the Salon hits home so perfectly.

Security today is a major concern in everything. Whether you fly, drive or design architecture, it takes paramount importance, over ruling design, aesthetics, and in many a cases, common sense.

To appreciate how America has changed since 9/11, walk slowly through any major city. What you’ll see dotting the landscape is the physical embodiment of fear. Security installations put up after the attacks continue to block public access and wrangle pedestrian traffic. Outside Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, garish purple planters menace rush-hour pedestrian traffic. The gigantic planters have abandoned all horticultural ambition, many of them blooming with nothing more than trash and untilled dirt.

Security today is more about perception than real purpose, at least in architecture. In designing our building we put the same physical security features, and integrated them into the building form, rather than let them stick out as sore thumbs on the sidewalk.

The security consultants rejected that outright because they felt that the users of the building will feel that the security features are not present.

As a result we are left to design ugly looking 22″ high bollards on the sidewalk.

So the next time you walk around New York City or for that matter any American city, and see sore thumbs outside beautiful buildings, do not blame the architect. Infact spare some sympathy for the designer who spent hundreds of hours designing an appealing building to have it all marred by a security consultant, more interested in “perceived” rather than actual security.

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