An article in today’s New York Times notes the increasing use of military style design principles in cities. For them, this is a totally new groove, or at the very least a post 9/11 groove.Â While very specific design elements may have become more commonplace after 9/11, many of them had been in place for the last thiry years or so. The first modern urban threat remember was not the Arab terrorist, but the black rioter. Buildings like Detroit’s Renaissance Center were noted not only for their use of curves as opposed to angles, but also for its use of military style bunkers to keep urban (read: black) denizens out. The bunkers have since been removed, but the first thing that I thought of as a young kid looking at it was the Morlocks.Â The curves (the building is in effect a series of connected tubes) served to disorient people rather than welcome them–which of course makes sense if the only population the designers want in the building in the first place are people who know where they are going. And the use of surveillance cameras were first popularized in the US in Baltimore, while dealing with a crime spree associated with young black male criminals.
If someone were to study the shifts in these design elements over time in response to what is in effect racialized fear, it’d be hot. And if they could combine a study of building design with car design they’d be really onto something.