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American Society of Landscape Architects


January 2006 Issue

Security with Street Smarts
Manhattan is taking security design into the streets.

By Alex Ulam

Manhattan is taking security design into the streets.
Rogers Marvel Architects

The frontlines in the war on terror are highly visible in urban centers throughout the country; streetscapes are becoming militarized with grimy concrete barriers, checkpoints, and machine-gun-toting police officers. Not only is the new paraphernalia an eyesore, but it is also consuming significant amounts of public space.

However, New York City, which undoubtedly remains one of the most appealing targets in the world for terrorists, is actually beginning to look less frightening thanks to security-oriented streetscape projects in two of its most distinctive neighborhoods: Battery Park City and the Financial District. In addition to making security barriers more aesthetically pleasing, Rogers Marvel Architects, PLLC, the lead architecture firm for both projects, developed strategies to literally stop terrorists in their tracks.

Making urban streetscapes secure against terrorists wasn’t an issue for designers prior to 9/11. The architects at Rogers Marvel educated themselves by studying military standards, says Graeme Waitzkin, a principal in New York-based Rock Twelve Security Architecture, a new Rogers Marvel spin-off that specializes in designing architectural elements for streetscape security. Says Waitzkin, “There wasn’t really a precedent for how to incorporate security and urban design.”

Instead of deploying the standard off-the-shelf barriers that are being used throughout the country, many of which were not designed to stop terrorists, Rogers Marvel is custom designing security barriers that can also function as street furniture, sculptural objects, and traditional landscape elements. These objects are not only multipurpose, but they also consume significantly less space than the generic bollards, gigantic planters, and jersey barriers (rectangular cement slabs used for separating lanes of traffic) that were formerly crowding the sidewalks. “What we want to do is put an invisible hand into the security envelope,” says Jonathan Marvel, principal with Rogers Marvel.

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