Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger

By Harvey Molotch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Forting Up the Skyline: Rebuilding at Ground Zero

We are reminded by the remaining remnants of European city walls (now sometimes used as ring roads and the occasional urban park) of how security concerns strongly affect urban form. Physical barricades and tall fences are still used to keep the enemy at bay. But in the case of a country like the United States, with so much immigration as well as tourism—along with seeps, leaks, and escapes—building up the membrane becomes a true challenge. So we arrived at the solution of constructing security brick by brick, building by building, place by place within the territory, not just at its borders.

The central site of it all in the United States, both as cause and effect, is what is left of the World Trade Center; a site and now a reconstruction in Manhattan. It shows in a striking way what security architecture can be and reveals how competing goals and anxieties meld into physical form. Whatever their mixture in U.S. civic culture at the time of the attacks, fear and truculence became dominant. It twisted the nature of the building outcome, shaping its form, influencing its uses, and determining which voices and priorities would predominate. Well before the decisions about what would be rebuilt and how, security displays were affecting the texture of political and business life, including making City Hall itself into a forbidden realm surrounded by checkpoints, fences, and armed guards. All around post-9/11 downtown New York, there were (and remain) conventional elements of bastion, with bollards, Jersey barriers, and no-entry zones.

This was the temperament that was to shape the project on the sixteen acres once occupied by the twin towers. As things evolved, the program became one of big, tall, and strong and partaking of the national ideology being given strident voice by the U.S. president, the governor of the State of New York, and the mayor of the city. From early on, it was clear, this building or set of structures would be aggres

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