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Form Follows Paranoia: An investigation into the impact of terrorism on the design of future cities By Viral Shah

A dissertation presented to the Department of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University in part fulfilment of the regulations for BA (Hons) in Architecture: Design and Practice

Statement of Originality This dissertation is an original piece of work which is made available for copying with permission of the Head of the Department of Architecture Signed .................................

Dissertation by Viral Shah: 07012418 Module: U30099 Submitted: 29.01.10

par路a路noi路a. suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.







PART ONE: Ground Zero, New York


The Final Proposal


PART TWO: Towards a New Dystopia?






Preface 5

International terrorism is a major issue of the twenty-first century. Under the threat of attack, safety is subsequently compromised within urban environments and consequently security is tightened, accordingly. This dissertation discusses the impact and relevance of the September 11th, 2001 attacks to the built environment and future cities.


Introduction 7

“Since the beginning of urban cultivation, defence against people or the natural elements has always been a factor influencing the structure and landscape of cities” (Coaffee, 2003). Defensive measures have continuously been an important aspect in the creation of cities; they lessen the fear of disaster felt by inhabitants following a major event such as an earthquake or a bombing. Predominantly within the last decade, there has been an increase in the severity and number of security measures in urban settings, particularly in the West, primarily because of the heightened threat of international terrorism following the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001. The event continues to reverberate its effects around the world and has been the root cause of an unprecedented sense of fear amongst the population of inhabitants residing within western cities. Amid the shock of the attack, there was a significant metamorphosis in people’s perceptions of the ‘safeness’ of places. This resulted in copious amounts of security measures being introduced into the urban situation, largely to alleviate fear. Terrorism is now in permanent view by the modern world in the era following 9/11, and counterterrorist measures have become the cities mechanism to deal with its threat. This dissertation aims to investigate the influence paranoia has on the design of future cities, as a result of counterterrorism. The role of these security measures in the urban environment will be investigated in terms of psychological influence on people; whether the security measures improve or worsen the insecurity 8

felt by a large amount of the population. Focussing on architectural and urban transformation, the work will explore the relevance and impact of this evolution of urban form on the future city. This dissertation consists of two main parts: the immediate repercussions of the event of September 11th, 2001 and then its wider effects on other western cities. Part one will explore the reverberations of 9/11 using Ground Zero as a key example; the immediate effects on site will be focused on, illustrating the relationship between major terrorist events and the creation of new risks that then have to be considered by architects and urban designers. The final master plan proposal for the Lower Manhattan void will then be investigated. Following the aftermath of 9/11, part two will explore the ever-more intimate relationship between urban form and the insecurity felt by the city dweller. The knee-jerk reactions by other western cities and their influence on paranoia will be used to illustrate this relationship. Do the over-the-top security methods so prevalent in transport systems (in particular within cities), in the wake of 9/11, have to be implemented throughout in order to achieve truly safe places to live and work? To what extent will the ‘war on terrorism’ justify the publics’ ever-decreasing social freedom against achieving social safety? And what will be the result of the next major act of international terrorism to the already hardened landscape? This dissertation addresses these questions. 9


Part One: Ground Zero, New York 11

Figure 1.


A hijacking, a spectacular explosion, a collapse of an iconic structure and a villain to blame it all on; these are the elements that belong in a Hollywood script but on the “day the earth stood still” (McEwan, 2001), fiction became hard fact; this was the dawn of a new age of terror. An image of an eruption of flames and building parts, mushrooming from a silver corporate building, covered international newspaper front pages on the day following the event. Next to the building, stands its wounded twin enveloped in thick black smoke rising skywards, caused by incandescent fires burning within its body. This image is of the moment the second United Airlines flight smashed into the World Trade Centre’s south tower in New York. The north tower suffered the same fate, eighteen minutes earlier, absorbing the first commercial passenger jet into its glass and steel façade, also resulting in an apocalyptic cloud of fire. Just twenty-seven minutes after the south tower was struck, a third American airliner crashed into the Pentagon in Washington; a building thought to be the world’s biggest office complex, causing serious damage. The intense fires, worsened by jet fuel, burned at soaring temperatures causing both structures in New York, one hundred and ten storeys high, to fail and subsequently collapse into nothing more than a pile of twisted steel and rubble, just twenty meters high; taking mere seconds to change the New York skyline forever. “At morning rush hour, the famous twin towers – tall, clean, elegant and familiar… had stood. An hour later they had vanished… burying and crushing huge crowds below” (Ellison, et al., 2001).


The event was described as “the biggest, most murderous and most spectacular terrorist onslaught in history” (Cornwell, 2001); the day was subsequently abbreviated simply as ‘9/11’. The world watched, stunned and confused, as American symbols of power and wealth burned relentlessly from a massive international act of terrorism; creating images even unthinkable by Hollywood filmmakers. Mark Wigley has written about the attack on the World Trade Centre, where he states: “Terrorism is not about killing people, but about dispersing the threat of death by producing frightening images” (p.72, 2002). Passenger jets meters away from slamming into the towers, people falling to their deaths alongside the buildings façade, the collapse of the structures and the universal look of horror on thousands of faces; terrorists created all these images. They are the underpinning medium that is immediately brought to mind when terrorism is mentioned. Before their collapse, the towers were the focal point of billions of images of New York, and for this reason there is an even more powerful longterm ‘living’ image in the Manhattan skyline, of the void where the buildings once stood. News reports from the day afterwards collectively declare that ‘America will never be the same again’; this is the case following all major events, where history is referred to within a pre-event and post-event context, for example, the Great Fires of London and Chicago both were referred to in a ‘pre-fire’ and ‘post-fire’ context. Trüby explains, “9/11 represents a symbolic date that divides a “relative period of innocence from the period after it” (p.220, 2006). There was a fourth target. But passengers reportedly assaulted the hijackers, and subsequently the plane crashed in an empty field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 14

costing them their lives. All government offices and tall buildings were evacuated through fear of more suicidal hijackers. Innocence had dissolved on that day; anything was possible. The mass panic caused by the ‘deathscape’ in New York and Washington brought the country to a standstill. “No planes. Hardly a train on the East coast. Wall Street closed and, for the first time in history, remained closed on the following day” (Cornwell, 2001). The 9/11 attacks collectively victimised 2,973 people across New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and caused thirty million square feet of damage across ten different buildings. The attacks were designed as a synchronised media event, aimed to have a massive psychological impact on the population of the Western World. The terrorists were well aware of the important role the media plays in the success of their terror missions and there is no doubt the orchestrators of the 9/11 attacks chose the targets of the commercial airliners with this in mind. The types of targets chosen for the event were ones of emblematic value, being more than just architecture; the World Trade Centre is the central symbol of America’s economic rise in the West and the Pentagon is symbolic of the countries’ military power. According to Terry Smith, “Terrorists know what every general knows, that damaging the buildings of an enemy is to damage their bodies; and to spread the threat of more damage (p.138, 2006). This effect is amplified, especially when the targets are ones of such iconic stature. The iconography of the relationship between the human body and architecture is also a theme discussed by Mark Wigley in his essay ‘Insecurity by Design’. He suggests that the buildings became more than emblems of the economy when they were attacked, this is despite the towers falling into 15

the category of sterile corperate “glass-and-steel boxes” (p.72, 1991), as argued by Charles Jencks. Wigley, states, “In the simplest of terms, buildings are seen as a form of protection, an insulation from danger” (2002, p.71), he also discusses the notion of buildings being more than objects, they are “an object that has been watching over you” (2002, p.72). In the moment the kamikaze pilots slammed into the towers, the buildings became wounded bodies, the objects that were so strong, became human. The attacks created a terrifying personified image. “Terrorism happened in faraway places. Until yesterday” (Engel, 2001), The Guardian headline reads, on the day after the attack. This was an act of terrorism that changed so much in the world, most particularly in the unfamiliar potential of international terrorism through an unparalleled level of threat. In hindsight, the standard of security within legislation and rules, post-9/11, seems incredibly naïve. They were in place at a time technically of peace, however the occurrence of the attacks, described as ‘a declaration of war’ by newspapers, inevitably lit the fuse of a ‘war on terrorism’, declared by President Bush. This had become a time where, “everyday life, above all in cities is increasingly transforming itself into a potential theatre for waging asymmetrical war” (Trüby, 2008). The most immediate change brought upon by the ‘war on terrorism’ in the urban environment was in security, which was stepped up to an unprecedented level, and unsurprisingly occurred most extensively in transportation systems. The most affecting change, however, was the birth of the new age of paranoia in the West, in fact, according to Smith, Hollywood screenwriters were sought to “brainstorm about terrorist targets and schemes in America and offer solution to those threats” (p.140, 2006). Terrorism 16

became mainstream.

Figure 2. The Homeland Security Advisory System

As a result of 9/11, the American government created the ‘Department of Homeland Security’, a division specialising in counterterrorism in the country. Subsequently after its creation, the department introduced the ‘Homeland Security Advisory System’ to the public realm, to indicate the terrorist risk level at a particular point in time. The system is presented through the use of five coloured codes varying from ‘Low’ represented by green, to ‘Severe’, represented by red. Arguably, the system is the government’s version of the ‘image’ emphasising the threat of post modern terrorism; where suspicion is manifest within all urban landscapes.

The twin towers were designed by Minoru Yamasaki in the early 1960’s, and fully constructed by 1971. The buildings incorporated an innovative structure allowing the towers to reach ground-breaking heights. Consideration for the potential of a collision with a plane was discussed for this reason and was consequently incorporated into the structure, bracing it for such an event. One can assume that Yamasaki took precedent from a previous incident that occurred with the Empire State building in 1945, where a plane crashed into the building due to low 17

visibility from heavy fog. Despite the damage, the building remained standing. Of course, planes were much smaller at the time that the towers were designed; today, planes are much larger, carry more fuel and now have to be considered as potential missiles. This is a strong example of the “two very different worlds” (Ramroth, 2007), split by 9/11. The sixteen-acre site in New York, where the towers once stood, became known as ‘Ground Zero’, a site described as being, “evocative of a war zone in the desert regions of the world” (Smith, 2006); it is the one blemish in Manhattans, otherwise, perfect city grid. 9/11 was saturated in symbolism, influencing a newfound anxiety in everyday life in cities, but it was the aftermath of the event that created the lasting emblems. Ground Zero inevitably became deep-rooted with powerful symbolism of trauma and memory. “The collapsing towers became sacral in ways they may not have been during their actual existence” (Smith, 2006). Images of girders shaped like crucifixes, still standing despite the immense force of material falling upon the structure from the sky, and firemen raising the American flag amid the wreckage mirroring the photograph of the soldiers raising the flag during World War II; these became emblems of strength for many people. Victims who were crushed by the falling towers became lost within its broken skeleton; the site became the location of their remains, and instantly became deeply meaningful to their families and loved ones. “The horrifying vaporisation of bodies gave the surviving remnants representative force” (Sorkin, 2008). The overwhelming importance of maintaining these symbols became very apparent in any consideration of rebuilding. There are many, many stakeholders of Ground 18

Zero; simply replacing the destroyed financial centre with more offices was not an option. What should then replace the towers? How will the sickening loss of life be remembered? How tall will the buildings, if any, be? The stage is set and the world is watching. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), an official commission to oversee the building process at Ground Zero, subsequently announced a design competition in August 2002. Twenty-one design organisations specialising in architecture, engineering, planning and landscape architecture competed to be the master planner for the entire site. Ultimately, seven teams of designers advanced through to the semi-finals, and within these groups, a spectrum of architectural styles existed. They included those of; Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Norman Foster, Shigeru Ban, and Daniel Libeskind. Each group produced master plans uniquely individual to one another, but where they all overlap is in metaphor, to restore the allure of the New York skyline, and to remember those who were lost. Two master plans were chosen as finalists by the THINK team and Studio Daniel Libeskind. THINK, a group consisting of Shigeru Ban, Frederic Schwartz, Ken Smith and Rafael Vinoly, designed proposals based around the footings of the towers. 19

Figure 3. The THINK master plan proposal

Arising from these, are two latticework structures creating the site in the sky for redevelopment. Within this site, “distinctive buildings by different architects are phased to complete a programme of innovative cultural facilities” including a Museum, Performing Arts Centre and Memorial. But with such a powerful site to build on, criticisms were not tame. The public created metaphors like “ a pair of skeletal towers that recalled how their loved ones had died” (Wyatt, 2003). From statements like this, it is explicit in how important communication of meaning is, to the public. Daniel Libeskind envisioned a master plan for the site entitled ‘Memory Foundations’. It included; a towering building of 1776 feet, a museum, a memorial with waterfalls, retail space, a visitor centre and four additional office towers. Altogether, the five ‘crystal’ towers increase in height in a spiral, from south to north, resonant of the spiralling form of the Statue of Liberty; a significant icon in Libeskind’s personal life. The spiral wraps around and embraces an open space, which houses the memorial, museum and visitor centre. It would ultimately be this master plan that was favoured by the public and chosen by the LMDC for the redevelopment on Ground Zero. Despite the entries being reviewed around specific criteria set by various stakeholders, at this point of the competition, there was little consideration about the unprecedented increase in security, post-9/11. Mark Ginsberg of ‘New York New Visions’, an organisation that advises the LMDC, ensured that the competition wasn’t to have a master plan chosen and built as proposed, but to have the plans enhanced and amended. Several of the 20

architecture firms that advanced through to the semi-finals in the master plan competition were invited to collaborate with Libeskind to design the five office towers due to his lack of experience in building a project of this scale. The point was made clear from the start; the site would undergo copious amounts of changes to incorporate the exceptional amount of demands from not only stakeholders, but the unprecedented demands of increased security as well.


Figure 4. Memory Foundations


Part One: The Final Proposal 23

Figure 5. Rendering showing the final master plan proposal


“Architecture and the built form have the capacity to transmit a range of dominant ideologies” (Coafee, et al., 2009). The communication of symbols, messages and security, is inherently important with any architecture built on Ground Zero. In this sense, the relationship between ideologies and expectations of the final proposal is one of unparalleled complexity. Besides the consideration for symbolism and memory, the financial centres original function, business, has to be restored in terms of its office space and transportation infrastructure; all of which have to be considered whilst conforming to ‘qualitative and quantitative’ criteria outlined by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Libeskind’s master plan proposal for Ground Zero incorporates many symbolic layers. Some of which are dedicated solely to the people who perished on the day of the attacks. For example, Libeskind created two public spaces to commemorate the victims, entitled ‘The Park of Heroes’ and ‘The Wedge of Light’. The latter, supposedly allows the sun to shine without shadow onto the site, between the hours of the impact from the first hijacked plane and collapse of both towers to visually mark the precise moment of time. For the memorial within Libeskind’s master plan, a space immeasurably important to the victims’ families, another design competition was held. There were over five thousand entrants from sixtythree nations but it was architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker’s design that was chosen. ‘Reflecting Absence’ consists of two pools located within the square footings of the original towers with waterfalls cascading down their sides. Inscribed around the edge of the water pools will be the names of victims from the attack. These designs are emblematic for the collective memory 25

of the public. For private stakeholders, the demand from the site is a different story. Manhattan contains some of the highest prices per square foot in the world, and it is understandable why site developers’ primary demands from sites in New York is from a prospect of financial gain. Larry Silverstein is the president and chief executive of Silverstein Properties, the private leaseholder of the World Trade Centre, which was originally built and owned by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Coming from a perspective of site development, Silverstein’s primary demand from the site is leasable office space and to fund this development, he is reportedly seeking over twelve billion dollars in insurance (Hartocollis, 2008). Unsurprising, with the overwhelming media coverage of 9/11, he is a figure surrounded by controversy. Aside from Silverstein, there are other stakeholders in Ground Zero, who are causing mounting delays in the rebuilding. “Much of the delay can be accounted for via familiar routines of power, greed, self-interest, bureaucracy, double-dealing and corruption-the inevitable stew of big projects” (Sorkin, 2008). The towers’ destruction raised questions of why the structures failed and imminently collapsed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, carried out a building performance study, analysing the weaknesses of the buildings design that potentially lead to its collapse, however the findings from the study were heavily criticised. The building performance study concluded that the key element to the 26

collapse of the structures was fire. Conversely, Thomas Eagar states, “The fire is the most misunderstood part of the WTC collapse” (p.9, 2001). Criticisms of FEMA’s conclusions for the collapse lead to a separate three-year report being conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Research by the body found the effect of the weakened structure, due to the fires, caused the angle clip joint, a major component, between the structural columns and the floors trusses, to fail. The collapse of the floors onto one another “like a row of dominoes falling down” (Eegar, 2001), caused the towers structures to become overstressed and consequently fail, again, these conclusions about the collapse were criticised. A certain fact is that, although ground-breaking in structural innovation, the engineered systems used in the Twin Towers are never likely to be repeated again (Ramroth, 2007), because the capability of terrorist activity has irreversibly changed. Ramroth wrote a concluding section on lessons and recommendations, following 9/11, in a chapter from his book, ’Planning for Disaster’. He reflects upon the NIST report and concludes that the new proposals should have an increase in: “the independence and width of stairwells and the strength of building utility cores”. And also, “improvements in fire rating, integrity of fire sprinkler systems” but most importantly he remarks, “initiate a structural frame approach to fire resistance” (p.196, 2007). Only with the consideration of these amendments can it be argued that the proposed designs are successful in architectures moral obligation, to protect its users against danger (Wigley, 2002).


The perceptual fear created by the terrorists ‘images’ had a resonating effect in the West. America’s new security agenda was created by an event that occurred on Ground Zero; it was inevitable that what ever was to be built here, would become the architectural image of the new era. Although Libeskind’s master plan proposal incorporated symbols of hope and patriotic strength, they do little, physically, for preventing or minimising the damage from another terrorist act. “The rebuilding of Ground Zero has been framed by constant recourse to three securities: security from terror, economic security and to a lesser but useful degree – environmental security” (Sorkin, 2008). Sorkin argues that the rebuilding on Ground Zero is a larger project, perhaps the template for the social reconstruction of the future cities, where everything is now being reevaluated from a perspective of terrorism, crime and environmental disasters. Libeskind’s master plan has undergone dramatic changes and continues to do so. The changes, however, are not solely because of differing views by the ‘starchitects’ involved in the design, rising costs or demands from the Port Authority. There is another stakeholder that overshadows the entirety of the urban environment; they are the governing bodies and further pressures that seek safety and security from terrorism in cities. They bring this change through counter-terrorism, which seeks to “steel itself against any repetition of the 9/11 attack” (Sorkin, 2008). Counterterrorism holds the ability, post-9/11, to dramatically influence changes to architecture.


The Freedom Tower, designed by David Childs of SOM, Silverstein’s personal architect, was urged by New York’s policing authorities in 2003, to make the building more secure against a terrorist attack (Shulman, 2005). Subsequently this resulted in an amendment of the design to include: “a twentystory fortified wall around the base of a 1,776-foot tower”, the critic adds, the change “hardly evokes Figure 6. Rendering showing the base of the Freedom Tower freedom, rather, it embodies fear and anxiety (Nordenson, 2007). The changes to the design, rooted by fear from suicide bombers, caused the base of the tower to be made primarily from concrete with a reduction in the size, and number of windows. Also revised, due to the pressures of security, was the towers footing on the site, which was collectively moved two hundred feet away from bordering streets to protect the building from “a large truck bomb” (Dunlap & Collins, 2005). From the initial conception of Child’s proposal for the Freedom Tower, its design was heavily scrutinised, but upon changes from a counterterrorism perspective, it was accused of being oversaturated with security concerns and ultimately “embodies a world shaped by fear” (Ouroussoff, 2005). While some dismiss the changes, an interview with Larry Silverstein realises that he believes the opposite to be true. He explains that the lessons learnt from 9/11 have exposed how not 29

to build high-rise buildings, and the security features that are being added to the buildings go “totally beyond code”, stating “the city has now begun to change and enhance the building code to require some of the advances that we built in this building (Marino, 2009). His remarks are true, but the changes brought by counter terrorist measures ‘going beyond code’ are sacrificing the emblems of memory proposed by the architects of the site, which are held immeasurably important to the public. Also being threatened by the era of the Homeland ‘(in) Security’ is the memorial within the footings of the towers. A key feature in ‘Reflecting Absence’ is the descent into the exhibition spaces in the void at the base of the memorial, however, there is fear of an “opportunity for a satchel charge explosive or airborne contaminant dissemination device to be cast” (Dunlap, 2006) into the memorial’s void where crowds would gather. The Governor of New York’s senior advisor for counterterrorism made this statement. These perceived fears are putting the symbolic gestures of the design proposals at risk and the paranoiac ‘worst case scenario’ planning is putting evermore pressures on the already over-stressed project. In taking precedence from the lessons learnt from the failings of the existing World Trade Centre and the recommendations from authorities on counter terrorist measures, the Freedom Tower may become the worlds most attack proof building. And upon completion, Ground Zero will hold “one of the planets most intense concentration of policing technologies” (Sorkin, 2008), establishing a 30

hyper secure environment featuring security measures such as; radiation detectors, bomb sniffers, biometric scanners and copious amounts of security guards. With the augmentation of such a fortified site, the role of the arguably excessive security measures may be scrutinised. There is a danger of the architecture at Ground Zero becoming emblematic of paranoia and insecurity initially created by the attacks, rather than as a memorial and symbol of hope. The preparation for future attacks could be interpreted as another victory for the terrorists; Sorkin argues that the security features will function as “mnemonics recalling the event that inspired them… agents of fear itself ” (p215, 2008). This is essentially the opposite of what the rebuilding of Ground Zero stands for, being America’s strength to overcome tragedy. Another question could be raised about the effect of the measures on the rest of New York; they secure the immediate site, however, they may expose weaknesses in security within the surrounding areas, fundamentally making them potential targets (Ouroussoff, 2005). The physical destruction in Manhattan was solely localised within Ground Zero, but the perceptual fear that the attack within the heart of the financial district created, unsurprisingly resonates throughout the city. The knee-jerk reactions to the subsequent insecurity were primarily in fortification of buildings, roads and transport systems, or simply in relocation of residents and businesses. Jon Coaffee analyses the “concentrated decentralisation” and “impulse to flee… in search of space and security” (p.224, 2003) following the event. He illustrates the fear of inner city working through the example of the movement of key businesses to excessively secured off-centre areas of activity. The city noticeably evolved post31

9/11, where “concrete barriers, private guards, and police protect what were previously open plazas and buildings� (Low, 2008) and is seemingly attempting to regain the perception of secure environments through increased militarisation and privatisation of spaces. The ideologies that are suggested by this fortification are not of memory and hope, but rather fear.


Part Two: Towards a New Dystopia? 33

The vision for the contemporary city today is very different to those preceding 9/11. City dwellers knowingly interact with many products of the counter-terror regime within the ‘everyday urban landscape’ (Coaffee, et al., 2009) involving bomb proofing, surveillance and security. The reverberations of major terrorist attacks echo throughout western cities in many ways. Whether it is using public transportation within a city, walking on the pavements through main high streets or simply sitting on a bench in a public square, the shadow created by terrorism undoubtedly sculpts many aspects, large and small, of the future city. In the previous section it was argued that the event on 9/11 has shaped the landscape of New York, going far beyond the site of Ground Zero. Here, two main questions are addressed: whether paranoia is integral to the twenty-first century city and what effect the urban metamorphosis will have on the architecture of the city and its inhabitants. In the wake of disasters, there is rebuilding and arguably progress, despite whether the disaster is caused by a natural occurrence such as a hurricane, or by man. A historical example of this would be the Great Fire of London of 1666 where man caused the fire. The aftermath of the fire led to the introduction of the London Building Act of 1667 that aimed to address the architectural decisions that intensified the destructive power of the fire, through means of codification. The Act considers materials, street widths and fire safety and, more generally, amended regulations for foundations and load bearing walls.


Man-made disasters, mainly through the actions of warfare have, arguably, a positive effect on architecture according to Stephan Trüby. “… Architecture evolution is inseparable from the thrusts of innovation caused by war, new weapon technology and post-stress achievement in codification” (2008, p.21). Trüby refers to ‘post-stress achievement’, a somewhat ironic statement, suggesting that urban landscape progression can originate from such destructive human behaviour. These codifications are created to attain a safer urban environment and it is government legislation that creates this codification. The legislation is introduced and indefinitely amended to prevent disasters of the same calibre occurring again proving that, “promise of future security by the authorities is born of disaster.” (Trüby, 2008) Terrorism happens sporadically, without a set timescale and often without warning, meaning prevention and preparation is not a simple ‘codified’ process. The Department of Homeland Security created the ‘National Asset Database’ in 1998, originally setting principles for “minimising the threat of smaller-scale terrorist attacks against information technology and geographically-distributed supply chains that could cascade and disrupt entire sectors of the economy” (DHS, 2006). Included on the database are symbols and historical attractions, such as national monuments and icons. This ‘target list’ can be argued to be of paranoiac significance as argued by Sorkin, stating that the list “appears ridiculous, includingamong the bridges and power plants-the Amish County Popcorn Factory and the Columbia Tennessee Mule Day Parade” (2007, p. xi). Definitions and standards seem to be the main problem within the list, specifically in the submission of the 35

‘targets’ by states across the U.S. The inclusion of a popcorn factory and a ‘Mule Day Parade’ in the list suggests that the paranoiac ‘blanket’ reaches even the most isolated of places. An attack on a particular building considered to be an ‘asset’ may have repercussions on many others, as a result of a particular style of attack. In many cases the aftermath outlasts the physical damage of the attack. For example, on February 26th, 1993 a truck bomb exploded in the underground car park of the World Trade Centre’s North Tower causing thick smoke to rise up into offices through the buildings core containing the stairwells. The truck, filled with four homemade cardboard boxes filled with urea nitrate and diesel oil, surrounded by tanks of compressed hydrogen was driven into the public underground garage “without encountering any barriers or surveillance” (Kaminsky, 2008) and parked adjacent to a load-bearing wall. Although the attack was not successful in bringing down the tower as planned, it did kill six and injure over a thousand people. Cleanup and repair from the bombing began immediately and as a result of the attack, security within the public garage beneath the towers was increased and the stairwells were retrofitted with ventilation systems to expel any smoke from future fires more effectively. Accordingly, underground public parking has been dismissed in the plans to rebuild Ground Zero, to prevent a similar attack from happening. The code officials for New York amended the regulations restricting commercial vehicles, buses, trucks, and similar vehicles in open parking garages. The victims of the attack subsequently blamed the Port Authority, the owner of the World Trade Centre, for allowing the terrorist plan to occur with such ease, 36

but of course, security was only provided for what was considered an extremity of the time. This ‘learning from mistakes’ methodology is essential to making safer urban environments, however the knowledge acquired from architectural errors does not always lead to changes in building code, as is the case of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The devastating damage was the result of a car bomb parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building; it was the largest act of terrorism that had occurred in America before the attack on September 11th, 2001. The nine-story building collapsed in less than four seconds due to the blast damaging a critical structural girder, causing the component to fail, resulting in the deaths of one hundred and sixty eight people. According to Ramroth “engineers, architects, and government and code officials debated whether to require certain new buildings that might be attractive targets for terrorist to have some degree of blast resistance given the nature of our changing world” (2007 p.167), he adds that the discussion did not bring forth any changes to the building code. As times change so too does the nature of the terrorist; what terrorism is capable of today is completely different to what was thought applicable thirty years ago. This causes uncertainties, which directly affect the urban landscape, with counterterrorist form being designed on the “basis of what might, or might not, happen” (Coafee, 2003). This is the primary reason for the creation of the Homeland Security Advisory System in 2001. Since the implementation of the colour coded system, the ‘Elevated’ risk level has been sustained ever since its 37

creation and has not ‘yet’ been lowered. This immediately builds a foundation for the public’s anxiety of an impending attack that could occur anywhere, at anytime and without prior warning; accordingly contributing to an ‘invisible threat’ (Graham, 2004), or in other words augmenting paranoia, within most built-up urban areas. The 9/11 attacks were unprecedented in both fatality and style of attack and this brought major concerns for different types of terrorism used in the twenty-first century. According to Massumi (2006, p.286) “Safe it would seem, has fallen off the spectrum of perception”, he then goes on to add, “Insecurity, the spectrum says, is the new normal.” Fear of the unknown creates insecurity and in spite of this, without warning, the Homeland Security division of the government can raise or lower the risk level without prior reasoning, adding panic to the already paranoid public. “Fear is the price we pay for our constantly growing security needs” (2006, p. 15), a statement argued by Trüby, giving some reasoning for the publics jittery state of mind, particularly within cities. People are reminded of the ‘risk level’ everyday, both consciously in the form of literal messages, through announcements in public transport stations and subconsciously through the built environment surrounding them, in the form of counter-terrorist metamorphosis. American embassies have a long history of terrorist activity leading to consequential changes and amendments in codification and, most importantly, a back-catalogue of knowledge from building security weaknesses. From this information, federal buildings, considered to be attractive targets by terrorists, 38

are ‘hardened’ with security features to prevent similar style attacks that would otherwise cause paralleled damage and casualties. When governmental buildings are hardened, there is a fine balance between building accessibility, as expected from a democratic society requiring openness, and security measures preventing terrorists from gaining access into the structure. Criticisms upon this balance argue that to ensure the most democratic response to attacks would be to create “an urban landscape shaped by qualities of openness and empathy, not paranoia” (Ouroussoff, 2001). This landscape hardening or ‘fortification’ undeniably conveys messages of symbolism through the counter-terrorist features; similar to the way the Twin Towers were the symbol of America’s economic power and capitalism. The messages however can be contradictory; the security features, in this case, are retrofitted to embassies to communicate the message that the building and its spaces are safe, but also convey the notion that an inhabitant’s safety may be at risk despite the features being added to alleviate this very emotion. Some architectural writers such as Nan Ellin, Jon Coaffee and Michael Sorkin reference to this urban response to attacks as the post-modern landscape of fear, or more specifically worded, the “recoding of the landscape in the language of the bomber” (Graham, 2004). There are two types of counterterrorism: visible and invisible. Both types provoke an emotive response through symbolism from the public. Visible security can often be seen ‘advertised’ in the built environment, particularly on financial 39

and governmental buildings and could be described as “obtrusive security” (Coafee, et al., 2009) whereas invisible security (to the unaccustomed eye) may be camouflaged. Despite the differences, they both serve the same purpose imparting fear reduction and preventing certain types of attack. Boddy criticises that buildings constructed with very evident (visible) security features such as gates and impregnable bases exploit the fears rather than the hopes of citizens (2008, p.281) through a visual language of ‘dis-assurance’. Invisible security often involves doubling-up or ‘deputising’ the use of an everyday object found in the urban environment, into a counter terrorist feature. For example, blast proof planters and planted trees serve their purpose as landscaping features but they can be designed and specially placed to absorb kinetic energy from bomb blasts or to act as barricades.

Figure 7. The Jersey Barrier

The New Jersey highway barrier is highly representative as a symbol of the landscape of fear; it is a literal concrete reminder of the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’, within the everyday urban environment. Originally designed for highways to prevent cars from crossing lanes, potentially into on-coming traffic, the Jersey barrier was adopted to avert cars or trucks filled with explosives from penetrating the building they protect. In the days following September 11th, 2001, the barriers were planted around the New York Stock Exchange, however in the years following 9/11 the barriers can be 40

seen surrounding buildings in a ring of concrete considered to be important assets throughout western cities attempting to create a ‘ring of reassurance’ for the occupiers. The Jersey barrier has now become a common embellishment to governmental architecture of many cities and is arguably “the first visual icon of the Homeland Security era”, according to Boddy (2008, p.277). The Jersey barriers are sometimes decorated with flowerbed separations or painted bright colours to reduce their unsightly visual impact in cities but they are indefinitely visible to the unaccustomed eye. Traffic control management involving barricades and restrictions prove to be effective measures. Aside from inconveniencing inhabitants, the roadblocks prevent vehicles from entering restricted spaces similar to the effect of the Jersey barrier. With the implementation of parking restrictions, the risk of explosive filled vehicles parking near governmental buildings can be avoided (Pawley, 1998), which is a large security risk of all embassies, judging from precedential attacks. CCTV (Closed-circuit television) is the most common crime prevention measure used in western cities; it acts not only as a recorder of crime but also as a deterrent of crime. Commonly known statistics of CCTV cameras within the built environment, specifically London, indicate that there is the equivalent of 41

Figure 8. A guarded CCTV camera located within the London Underground

eight cameras per inhabitant, but due to the amount of cameras it is difficult to monitor live footage and therefore capture suspects before an impending attack. The cameras provide emblematic value as a deterrent to reduce fear within public spaces, similar to Jeremy Bentham’s Panoptican prison scheme. This scheme incorporates an observation tower centrally positioned within the building that prisoners are unable to look into, preventing the ability to determine whether they are being watched or not; creating a constant presence of authority and deterring crime. Although not a creation solely of terrorism, new technologies allowing cameras to detect number plates and biometrically recognise faces in unison with the government’s terrorist database makes the ‘deterrent’ technology potentially very valuable to the counter-terrorist cause. Physical walls and gates are emblematic of medieval cities, despite this, they continue to be highly effective measures against terrorism. Through separation of public, semi-public and private spaces, the walls safeguard structures against attacks, to a certain extent, whilst preventing particular people from gaining access into the buildings if used copiously. Walls arguably do more than protect buildings and spaces against attack, they project more emblematic values regarding hierarchical social relationships, and as Ellin states, they also “denote comfort” (1997, p.111). Additional security guards are essential to the success or failure of these measures. Armed police officers are a common component to the post9/11 urban environment within the commercial centre and the financial district of cities, in particular around iconic buildings. Again, there is an emblematic presence of contradictory emotions felt by people involving safety and fear, 42

reminding city dwellers that they live in a post-event world. The visibility of security and its resulting effectiveness of attack prevention are questionable; however its effectiveness concerning inhibition of fear is, to an extent, contradictory. According to Coaffee, et al. (2009), visible security may increase the vulnerability to attack because the importance and its iconic stature of a building or space are highlighted and it may therefore become an attractive target by terrorist organisations, consequently provoking paranoia). The doublingup of objects as invisible security measures has a lessened visual impact on the built environment but it can be argued that the features have the same paranoiac effect because the urban landscape is still being hardened in the language of the terrorist. The ever-changing style of terrorist attack upon the built environment can be considered to be one of a snowballing nature, in terms of physical fortification and legislation. According to William Ramroth, “It has taken centuries’ worth of disasters and trial and error learning to make the built environment as safe as it is today”, he comments further, “…we have not learned all our lessons…and consequently we are not completely safe”. Despite the changes terrorist activity causes to the urban landscape, it is not possible to fully predict what the next ‘event’ may be but it can be deduced that the constant refinement, simultaneous with disaster occurrence, plays a critical role in the progress of cities. Each counter-terrorist measure is a security response to a particular style of attack and is therefore highly effective if the same attack were to happen again in a precedential 43

way. The Jersey barrier, for example, is an effective measure at preventing vehicle bombs penetrating into the buildings they protect, but would be entirely useless against an airborne style of attack like that of 9/11. Counter-terrorist measures have to be accumulations of one another in order to be effective against many different styles of attack. Ellin refers to this as “defensive urbanism” (1997, p.7), an urban framework that is essentially based on uncertainty. Despite attacks never occurring again under the same circumstances, the perceived targets are hardened, but not all buildings can be hardened. There is a fear that terrorists will target ‘soft’, or in other words, less protected buildings, judging by reported threats from terrorist organisations. According to James Forest, soft targets are “typically nongovernmental sites, and more often than not, where people gather in large numbers” (2006, p.37). He explains further that airline hijacking was traditionally used for negotiation purposes, but on 9/11 the airliners were used as weapons, changing the rules of what terrorists are capable of, once again. The rise of terrorist risks and uncertainty also has a direct effect on the insurance industry. The economy is a primary target for terrorists, attacks on buildings of economic stature (financial and consumer) can impose millions of dollars of social costs through increased security, depressed consumer spending and higher insurance (Forest, 2006) and as such these types of buildings sought after greater protection. Successful attacks can also “dent the reputation of the area through negative media exposure that is guaranteed” (Coafee, 2003). Insurance policies cover buildings from damage caused by various sources involving fire, water and natural disasters. Before 9/11, insurers in America included terrorism as part of 44

standard coverage (Coaffee, 2003), however following the unprecedented terrorist attack the companies insuring businesses in the World Trade Centre and private leaser Larry Silverstein, would face the biggest compensation claim in history as a result of terrorism (Griffiths, 2001). Controversially, Silverstein would try attempting to claim the event as separate attacks because individual aircrafts hit each tower in a separate occurrence, which would double the initial compensation claims for the buildings involved in the attack; he was partially successful, claiming up to four and a half billion dollars (Mollenkopf, 2005). Terrorism insurance has created a substantial market of its own, involving unthinkable amounts of money. Insurance companies require businesses to protect their buildings against terrorism, especially if they are considered to be ‘national assets’; this would have a direct effect on the price insurance companies demand from customers. This phenomenon relates again to Trüby’s statement, “Fear is the price we pay for our ever growing security needs” (2006, p. 15). The insurance industry is founded upon worst-case scenarios and terrorism adds a revised definition of fear to the built environment. Accordingly, architects and engineers, when designing new buildings in the post-9/11 world, have to apply considerable thought for the appropriateness of components within certain spaces in consideration to building codes and now insurance policy guidelines. The ‘snowballing’ evolution of the city, as a result of counterterrorism, has some connections eerily similar to dystopian visions of George Orwell’s 1984 and Philip Dick’s The Minority Report. Firstly, excessive surveillance, secondly, heavily forti-fied buildings and thirdly, privatisation of spaces (catalysing segregation of 45

the urban population); all are integral to the image of the dystopian landscape. The prevalence of these three factors, similar in imagery to dystopia, within western cities is undeniable. Ever-increasing CCTV units and advancing biometric technologies, capable of recognising individuals without human intervention, bring to mind the ‘Big Brother’ characteristic of dystopia. This characteristic specifically is a root cause of paranoia because it evokes the emotion of being followed relentlessly and consequently causes increased anxiety. If Moore’s law is taken into account, where electronic devices double in number of pixels and sensors every year, CCTV technology will become increasingly intelligent and more accurate at indentifying individuals (Harwood, 2008); this will, arguably, make the environment safer, however may also increase paranoia felt by city dwellers because privacy, in the built environment, is compromised in order to make inhabitants feel safe. Sorkin strengthens this argument stating, “because of new technologies of intrusion, architecture is rapidly losing its primal role as a barrier to seeing” (2008, p.xv). Fortification is undoubtedly part of the twentyfirst century city, insurance companies demand this and with every terrorist act that occurs, the public demands it as well to prevent a similar style attack from occurring (to the same devastation). This collective demand reinstates the argument that target hardening has become somewhat essential in the era of the Homeland Security Administration. The privatisation of spaces is a large part of the framework making up the modern city. The rise of paranoia has transformed former public spaces into controlled and guarded environments. Ellin describes the movement of consumer spaces to private realms within ‘shopping malls’, which are a combination of metamorphosis in privatisation and also fortification. She states, 46

“The inward turning shopping mall has abandoned the central city for the suburbs and whose fortress-like exterior surrounded by a moat-like parking lot turns its back entirely on its surroundings” (1997, p.34). Not only is there a movement of activities initiated by the private sector, but the spaces created for them is heavily controlled. Similar to the way of Figure 9. Celebration, Florida - a gated community designed by Disney the panopticon’s central tower the spaces are watched over by a control area that is centrally located, using CCTV. Similar to dystopian residents, city dwellers, today, aspire to ‘escapism’ from fear or simply, avoidance of the unknown. This fear can be diminished within a “simulated environment” according to Ellin (1997, p.93), where something is artificially replicated making it a “realer-than-real” milieu. As well as shopping malls; examples of this type of simulated environment are gated communities and theme parks. Gated communities ‘advertise’ their emblematic private and protected spaces to potential buyers, delivering the “kind of neighbourhood they grew up in” (Low, 2008). And theme parks, specifically Disney world, can be considered as part of the “architecture of reassurance” (Sorkin, 2008). Created by Walt Disney’s ‘Imagineering’ (a word he created himself, morphing imagination 47

and engineering into one term), the theme park is “aimed, above all to entertain… it soothes and reassures the visitor”, within a world where people can escape ‘real’ problems. These ‘hyper-real’ examples incorporate emblematic symbols within their architecture, but most importantly, for their users, they offer simulated comfort. Justification to the public’s ever-decreasing social freedom is directly linked to terrorist threats and events. The level of what is acceptable to urban inhabitants, in terms of counterterrorist measures in order to achieve ‘comfort’, is reviewed upon every successful act of terrorism. Sorkin questions the fear-fed manipulations caused by the ‘war on terror’ upon people’s rights and possibilities. The manipulation is especially discernible in legislation, particularly with the introduction of Britain’s ‘Terrorism Act’ of 2000 and Americas’ ‘Patriot Act’ following closely after 9/11; both give governments liberty to carry out operations that would have, pre-event, been highly unacceptable in terms of civil rights and privacy of the public. Coaffee argues that methods of social control begin to surge in response to security concerns of new terrorist threats. He continues stating that the security responses “will further erode civil liberties, as democratic and ethical accountability will be given a back seat in the new era of anxious urbanism” (2004, p.267). With every new terrorist event that happens, the plausibility of utopian models becomes even less applicable, where “tools of control” (Sorkin, 2008) introduced into the city, rooted upon safety, become more acceptable to the public. An ever 48

decreasing social freedom is unavoidably associated with the acceptability of counterterrorist measures.



Conclusion 51

In the aftermath of a disaster, there is arguably a positive reaction in terms of a future progression. Weaknesses in architecture are assessed and made stronger, precautions and amendments in building code are taken further, and safer built environments are designed, to prevent a similar cause of disaster becoming as devastating as the last. There is no doubt in concluding that September 11th, 2001 has permanently changed many different aspects around the world. Positive changes to the built environment have accordingly followed 9/11, in terms of safer structural design in response to unprecedented dangers from terrorist activity. Conflicting effects, however, also followed the event and seem to overshadow any progressive movement forward. Paranoia and anxiety are the main by-products from terrorism that taint the urban environment in the west, affecting cities’ infrastructures and everyday surroundings through an ongoing process of hardening and fortification. The continual layering of security measures to counter the insecurity is justified by counterterrorism, aiming to project normality and make places safer to work and live. The ideology that is communicated by the measures is however, contradictory; there is a danger of counterterrorism communicating anxiety to the public rather than its primary role, security. The security measures are emblematic as much as they are practical, and therefore have an effect on people’s perception of space within cities. Sorkin makes a very valid argument in stating: “If every space is susceptible to attack and every person a potential attacker, then the only discourse is to watch everyone and fortify every place” (p.xvii, 2008). Anxiety is one of the most reverberating effects of terrorist activity; it closely follows each attack and is felt 52

by, not only those directly affected by the attack, but entire cities though collective fortification and counter-terrorist preparation. Another visual element of the post-9/11 era is of the Homeland Security Advisory System. The system sets the foundation of paranoiac cautiousness, maintaining an invisible threat for everyday: “the ground of conflict is as much in our imagination as it is in our streets” ( Jacob, 2006). Terrorism is not necessarily measured in successful missions of destruction, but rather the dissipation of fear caused by the attempt. Failed bombings and attacks, as long as they cause negative change, in terms of decreased freedom and civil rights, or increased insecurity, can be considered to be successful in their primary objective. And with the metamorphosis of the urban environment into a landscape rooted upon fear, the ‘war on terrorism’ could be mediated to be one of a losing battle. Despite whether the missions of terror are successful or not, terrorist activity also reinforces any deadening anxiety hanging over the future, raising questions of whether terrorists will try again and eventually be successful. Ultimately, terrorism’s “significance is felt more through absence than presence” ( Jacob, 2006). For this reason it can be questioned, what is more destructive to the quality of life within western cities, terrorism or counterterrorism? A strong example of terrorist ‘success through failure’ can be illustrated by the recent attempted bombing of a trans-Atlantic flight headed for Detroit Airport on 25th December 2009; the effects reverberate through the medium of counterterrorist precautions regardless of the fact that the mission actually failed. Increased 53

security, particularly at airports, high alerts on the Advisory System and anxiety closely followed the event; despite the security measures already in place to prevent such an event, the bomber still managed to find a crack in the system. Consequently, this again raises a question, of when the cycle of the changing nature of terrorism and security response will collapse and result in aesthetics parallel to dystopia. Today, some civil rights already have been sacrificed over protection against terror, through amendments and creation of legislation and the very apparent recoding of the urban landscape in a paranoiac dialect. Just like the Twin Towers were protected against threats considered to be an extremity to the time of their creation, the counterterrorist measures of today are conceived in the exact same way. Times have undoubtedly changed since the destruction of the World Trade Centre, the issues discussed in this dissertation ultimately express the conclusion that fear is becoming embedded within the urban fabric of the cities of the twenty-first century. Part one illuminates the defensive nature of the architecture at Ground Zero, a site that has become braced for all sorts of attacks at the expense of losing symbolic memorials and features unique to the site. Once a site symbolic of America’s economic power, Ground Zero will collectively become an emblem of America’s paranoiac state of fear and a “monument to defensive psychology” (Bayley, 2007). The site is essentially the perceived image of what it takes for inhabitants and authorities to feel safe in cities after 9/11. Part two examined other western cities’ attempts to design out terrorism and the desire for architecture of reassurance. The counterterrorist measures can communicate st54

rong messages both intentionally and unintentionally; the result of their presence is one of contradicting terms, subsequently contributing to an emotion of fearfulness and insecurity. Rather than physical counter-terror measures simply being unpleasant architectural embellishments projecting confusing messages, they should be carefully considered Figure 10. The ‘NoGo’ Barrier outside Wall Street, New York and designed into the urban environment, enhancing the streetscape. Successful measures like the ‘NOGO’ barrier designed by Rogers Marvel Architects incorporate sculptural aspects into the primary objective of the Jersey barrier, to stop vehicles laden with explosives, in a much more aesthetically pleasing way. The same company also designed the ‘Tigertrap’ a measure that uses the same concept of collapsible concrete on airport runways to bring planes to a skidding halt, but instead adopts it into an urban context; the result is a concrete pavement that collapses under the weight of a speeding truck, stopping it going any further, into a potential target. These measures are understated in their visual impact, they provide safety without intrusively becoming a source of insecurity, and it is for this reason why they are successful at what they are there for, to counter terrorism.


The key to alleviating fear within cities is rooted upon carefully designed security measures, making use of ever-improving security technology and incorporation of safety aspects, from a terrorist perspective, into building code and legislation; all without careless overindulgence. Ground Zero will hold the worlds most intense concentration of security, a stage saturated with insecurity, it is hoped that this won’t become the template that other western cities feel they should follow in order to feel safe because this is not progression towards a better city for the future, rather it is a progression towards a city filled with paranoia.




References 59

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Form Follows Paranoia by Viral Shah  
Form Follows Paranoia by Viral Shah  

An Architectural Dissertation investigating the impact of terrorism on the design of future cities The Dissertation recieved the second hig...