Truly Effective Security Is Hidden
|Image provided courtesy of Marshalls Landscaping Products|
I’m truly amazed when I travel around the country and see closed circuit cameras everywhere; airports, shopping malls, street intersections – everywhere! I read recently, that my image is captured several hundreds of times a day. That’s scary. So I guess, Big Brother is watching! At least, that’s what I’m thinking and that's how I'm feeling. The space makes me feel uncomfortable. But should I be?
If I'm using the space shouldn't I feel comfortable while using it? If the answer is, "Yes", and I believe it is, then the question is, “What makes good space?” The factors range from access and linkage to other services, uses and activities within the space, comfort and image, and sociability. All of these factors come in to play. I'd like to focus on the comfort and image part of the equation.
Security as an Enabler and Not a Tax
A British friend of mine, says, “Security has to be an enabler and not a tax”. By that he means, the environment must allow people to transit “freely and confidently”. I hate to say it (after all he’s an Arsenal fan) but he’s right. People will use the space because they can move within it freely and because of this freedom they feel confident that they are safe.
Where there is good quality of life, people want to live and raise their families. The true measure of a Smart or Safe City is a place where the grandkids want to live and raise their families!
To make this happen Smart City planners will need a holistic approach. They won’t be able to address a certain sector of society, say utilities for instance and voila’ everything is good. It will require good infrastructure systems, good inhabited space design, good governance and good community involvement. The right mix of technology from all sectors and behavioral sciences will be needed. Due to this holistic approach to community planning, companies wishing to compete in this space will need to bring in a variety of specialties in order to adequately meet the consumer’s needs. As an example, inhabited space design cannot be a function of only architects and engineers. It must also include security professionals, transportation experts, government officials, behaviorists, and even community members, both retailers and residents.
The reliance on physical security engineering will become paramount as we use inhabited space to mitigate unwanted behaviors and reduce its effects. We cannot lose sight of the human aspect of using new technologies as we move forward.
Electronic vs. Non-electronic Technologies
Unfortunately, electronic technologies are invasive. They assault our daily lives as they collect more and more data about our habits, preferences and routine. On the other hand non-electronic technologies are not invasive. They “socially engineer” the space so that people using the space act how we want them to act. Not because they feel threaten that “Big Brother” is watching but because good behavior begets good behavior. The use of invasive technologies will need to give way to non-intrusive technologies. This will take time. But there’s no better time to start than now.
Immediately after the vehicle attack in Barcelona, jersey barriers started popping up in pedestrian zones and near sidewalk cafes. This use of concrete barriers systems is extremely unsightly and only limitedly effective. Instead of using barriers that worsen the quality of the space, we should think about the quality of space we are protecting and integrate aesthetically pleasing barriers into the environment that actually blend in and keep it picturesque – complimenting instead of spoiling. Remember, no one wants security to be a tax, even if it’s only a visual burden. Having ugly concrete jersey barriers right next to you while sipping your Brunello di Montalcino at an outdoor café table doesn’t project the atmosphere we are trying to achieve; however, flower planters, benches, light poles, bicycle racks, trash bins and the like that have been crash tested and proven effective against vehicle-ramming threats can enhance the atmosphere instead of hindering it.
Recently, Stefano Boeri, Architect was cited by Dezeen Magazine as saying, “Cities should be redesigned to include trees with bulky planters rather than concrete barriers to prevent vehicle attack”. He went on to say, “A big pot of soil has the same resistance as a Jersey (modular concrete barrier), but it can host a tree – a living being that offers shade; absorbs dust, CO2 and other subtle pollutants; and provides oxygen and a home for birds”. We agree.
Hiding Security in Plain Sight
I believe we can “socially engineer” inhabited space. We can incorporate specific urban design strategies that cause positive behaviors so that there is less reliance on the invasive use of electronic means to keep us safe.
As an example; the use of “crash rated” street furniture. It provides a measure of security from a ramming vehicle threat without making the space look like a threat is anticipated. Another example, and perhaps even more hidden, is the use of furniture that incorporates ballistic materials, so people have something to hide behind during an active shooter threat. Both solutions are currently available and in use in many unsuspecting areas.
Ultimately citizens don’t want cameras that watch their every move; instead they want space that is functional and free of crime and unwanted behaviors. By increasing the effectiveness in controlling the social behaviors of the people using or transiting the space, and adding “passive” defensive mechanisms the environments will become safer and need fewer electronic gadgets.
As the great migration from the country-side to urban centers becomes an increasing phenomenon, community leaders must meet the challenges that lie ahead. As systems of urbanization become ever more complex so will the solutions to resolve the problems they cause. It’s imperative that not only will smart cities be highly functioning and efficient but they must also be, first and foremost – safe.
 Boeri is known throughout the architectural and design world for his “plant and tree” covered buildings.