It’s not al­ways easy to spot, but an­titer­ror­ist ar­chi­tec­ture is be­com­ing more and more com­mon around the world

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - JO CARLOWE

Ar­chi­tec­tural in­no­va­tion in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

BY JO CARLOWE Ter­ror­ists tear­ing through bridges, mar­kets, hol­i­day re­sorts, con­cert venues and bars have be­come all too com­mon­place. It’s the stuff of night­mares, made worse by the ease with which reg­u­lar ve­hi­cles can be turned into lethal weapons. In­deed, the so-called Is­lamic State (ISIS) de­scribes cars, vans and trucks as their “weapon of choice”.

Of course, the po­lice and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices are al­ready work­ing tire­lessly to counter these threats, but they’re not the only ones. Be­hind the scenes there are qui­eter he­roes too – the de­sign­ers who are try­ing to keep us safe through ar­chi­tec­tural in­ge­nu­ity. They’re the pro­fes­sion­als who are adding safety mea­sures to our land­scapes – pre­cau­tions hid­den in plain sight in the guise of planters, benches and lamp posts, everyday street fur­ni­ture that’s tested to with­stand the force of a hurtling truck.

Walk past Lon­don’s Palace of West­min­ster and you’ll see large black bar­ri­ers en­gi­neered to halt a truck from strik­ing at speed. St roll fur ther along White­hall, the home of many govern­ment min­istries, or to the north side of Par­lia­ment Square, and the bar­ri­ers dis­ap­pear.

This isn’t a se­cu­rity over­sight. The area is still pro­tected, but here the bar­ri­ers have been seam­lessly de­signed into the land­scape. You’ll pass what looks like a clas­si­cal balustrade wall, some­thing that might have been there for cen­turies. It hasn’t. It’s a modern in­ter­ven­tion packed with re­in­force­ments to pre­vent a hos­tile ve­hi­cle at­tack.

On Lon­don’s busy Tot ten­ham Court Road, there’s a mas­sive oval-­shaped bench – it, too, is a bar­rier in dis­guise. Smack a van into it, and the ve­hi­cle will come off worse.

But it’s not just the UK’s cap­i­tal that ben­e­fits from these hid­den fea­tures. The seats on the ap­proach to Wales’s Na­tional As­sem­bly are re­in­forced, and so are the nau­ti­cally themed benches out­side the Ti­tanic Belfast mu­seum.

Bi rm­ing­ham New Street rail­way sta­tion – once voted the “ugli­est build­ing in Britain” – re­cently un­der­went a re­vamp that not only gave it an at­tract ive mir­ror-pol­ished stain­less steel fa­cade, but a ro­bust ‘Hos­tile Ve­hi­cle Mit­i­ga­tion’ (HVM) sys­tem. The build­ing is pro­tected with mas­sive stain­less steel planters packed with im­pres­sive trees. There are also coun­tert­er­ror­ism blocks around the taxi rank and within the pub­lic plaza mas­querad­ing as seat­ing. Vis­i­tors use them on a daily ba­sis, un­aware of their dual pur­pose.

The aim is to pro­tect peo­ple with­out mak­ing them feel that they’ve en­tered a se­cu­rity zone, ex­plains Jonathan Goss, coun­tert­er­ror and ve­hi­cle- ­se­cu­rit y spe­cial ist, and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Town­scape Prod­ucts, who de­signed the New Street and Ti­tanic Bel fast projects. “There’s a dan­ger that HVM


sys­tems that are ob­vi­ously in­stalled to pro­vide se­cu­rity will cre­ate fur­ther civil­ian un­ease by mak­ing peo­ple feel as though they’re liv­ing un­der con­stant threat of at­tack. As such, it’s es­sen­tial to take a holis­tic ap­proach to perime­ter pro­tec­tion. By tak­ing a long-term pre­ven­ta­tive view, it’s pos­si­ble to en­sure the cor­rect level of pro­tec­tion while en­hanc­ing the aes­thet­ics and func­tion­al­ity of pub­lic spa­ces.” Turn­ing pro­tec­tive con­crete blocks into planters is also a way of bring­ing more green­ery into our ur­ban spa­ces.

But this idea of com­bin­ing safety and aes­thet­ics is not en­tirely new. Out­side Ar­se­nal’s Emi­rates Sta­dium, Lon­don, which opened in 2006, are gi­ant con­crete let­ters that spell out the club’s name. It looks like a quirky de­sign fea­ture, but it’s ac­tu­ally a mas­sive shield to ab­sorb en­ergy in the event of a hos­tile ve­hi­cle at­tack. Con­crete benches and gi­ant or­nate can­nons (part of the club’s in­signia) on the fore­court pro­vide fur­ther pro­tec­tion, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for a ve­hi­cle to weave through.

STREET PLAN­NERS and ar­chi­tects have been think­ing about se­cu­rity en­hance­ments for some years now. In 2010, The Royal In­sti­tute for British Ar­chi­tects pro­duced guide­lines urg­ing plan­ners to in­cor­po­rate anti-ter­ror­ism mea­sures into build­ing de­sign.

Hence the steps up to the new north­ern en­trance to Read­ing Sta­tion en­cour­age crowds to gather not by the build­ing en­trance but above

Gi­ant con­crete let­ters act as a bar­rier out­side Ar­se­nal’s Emi­rates Sta­dium

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