Designing for Disaster

Although the aesthetic appeal of buildings with these new design parameters isn't always impaired, public access is, which diminishes social cohesion and inclusiveness. Carol Willis, director of New York's Skyscraper Museum, laments how the flow of foot traffic has been reduced to funneling people single file to a checkpoint.

Destroying Civilization to Save It?

"Buildings are safer," Ms. Willis admits, "but against what? Airplanes crashing into them? That shouldn't be an engineer's problem." She would like to see – ideally – a return to fully free, public space open at all times to everyone.

"What's the point of protecting your civilization if you're going to destroy it in order to save it?" Mr. Kamin, the critic, asks. "We're talking about the effects buildings have, not just on their functions but on the spirit of people who encounter them every day. If they're dour and fortresslike, it casts a cloud over urban life, and that hands a victory to the terrorists."

"The design message you send," Hop­per says, "should not be totally contradictory with the architecture of the building, or the space and the democratic ideals we're looking to promote." More and more, architects are integrating physical security into holistic designs that are not off-putting but graceful and inviting.

"Security is not the most desirable thing, but it's become a fundamental thing," Rogers says. "We must engage it and make it an exercise that improves the public realm."

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