Monday, July 25, 2016

After the Nice Attack, Will Cities Place Vehicle Barriers in Public Spaces?

The Bastille Day truck attack in Nice was the latest in a rather long list of vehicle assaults as a tactic for terrorism. One consequence of the attack, we may be sure, will be a new wave of streetscaping to introduce anti-ram barriers into the built environments of cities.

Some news media have been asking the question "can a lorry attack ever be stopped?" Of course it can be stopped. There is nothing new about anti-ram vehicle barriers, even ones that are effective against large trucks. The only question is whether governments will resort to large and obvious barriers of the sort that we have at our Fortress Embassies, or whether they take the trouble to go discreet and subtle with some more architectural options.

Here's an example of large and obvious:

Subtle is better, especially in cities. One commentator is using the term "crisis architecture," which is a new one on me, but I like the idea.

As a matter of fact, my good friends in the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) a few years ago published a whole handbook full of EPIC ideas for architectural designs that protect against vehicle ramming attacks but hide in plain sight. Please browse it to get a glimpse of what I think we'll be seeing a lot of in our public spaces pretty soon.

There's more where that came from. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has its own handbook of barrier designs, some of them quite innovative. Check out, for instance, the TigerTrap:
A collapsible sidewalk and planting system designed to reduce the impact of force protection on public space while maintaining a high level of security. The TigerTrap employs a sub-grade collapsible material, installed below at-grade paving or planting. The installation is designed to withstand pedestrian traffic but fail under the weight of a loaded vehicle.

Like something out of a Road Runner cartoon, only it's real.

You've probably already seen examples of anti-terrorism architecture that blended into the landscape so well that you didn't realize what they were. Like this excellent one, for example.

And, there are also rapidly deployed and temporary barriers, like this one. The French Army could have placed that system around the Nice promenade in an hour or two, and picked it up again after the Bastille Day crowd had gone home.

Coming to a city near you.

1 comment:

James said...

I guess they really mean stop in this case.