Design of American Homes Inspired by Culture of Fear: Aesthetics Secondary with Demand for Secure Rooms, Gardens
Harper, Jennifer, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
It's not Martha Stewart who holds sway over the appearance of American homes. It's the bogeyman.
Welcome to what urban designer Nan Ellin calls "the architecture of fear," a disconcerting notion that our buildings have become symbols of paranoia. Form follows fear, not function.
"As violent crime has almost doubled in America since 1960," she said, "we have transformed our homes and cities in the interest of self-protection."
It's all in the name of "defensive urbanism," said Ms. Ellin, who teaches urban design at the University of Cincinnati. Her book "Architecture of Fear" was published earlier this year.
"Now we have gated communities and corporate citadels. And the message is `keep out,' " she added.
Some of it is diabolically clever, like California architect Brian Murphy's "stealth house," a new luxury home built inside a dilapidated shell to dissuade potential marauders. The home is "pre-graffitied."
Among the rich and famous, the "terrorist-proof security room" is the feature of choice these days. The room is accessed by sliding panels and secret doors, and the folks in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air can't get enough of them.
Homeowners now plant "security gardens" as well - burly hedges that block access to windows and yards. It's a thorny issue indeed - landscapers now give deference to prickly greenery and punctuate yard designs with well-placed security-system warnings.
Paranoid architecture is a trend, and a bad one, agreed Doug Michaels, a Yale-educated architect who writes extensively about social influence on public design.
"A concern for security is deforming the esthetics of our culture," he said from his Washington office. "The closing and retooling of Pennsylvania Avenue is a perfect example. …