Paris Showcases Architectural Security

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Robison Wells
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A new construction project is being unveiled in Paris: an eight-foot tall wall surrounding the base of the Eiffel Tower. It’s being done in response to recent terrorist attacks in the country, including the mass shooting in November 2015 that killed 130 people, and the truck that was purposely driven through a crowd last July, killing an additional 86.

“It is not a wall, It’s an aesthetic perimeter.”

In a statement that is delightful political spin, the Paris mayor’s office said that the reinforced glass that can stop both bullets and vehicles is “not a wall. It’s an aesthetic perimeter.”

In an age of terrorism and mass shootings, security measures around the world have become essential in many areas, and, more and more, architects, engineers and landscape planners are working with psychologists, security experts and law enforcement to incorporate safety into their designs. These can go from the simple (well-lit, open areas reduce crime, while darker, enclosed spaces increase it) to the more subtle (studies find that playing classical music on a PA system reduces loitering). Some designs are intended to be seen, such as security cameras. Other measures blend seamlessly into the background: berms of earth are quite often used around buildings and parking lots to deflect explosive shock waves up into the air, instead of horizontally into buildings. In large commercial buildings, curves and alcoves are giving way to straight, unobstructed lines of sight.

Ever since the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, which was carried out by parking a large truck filled with explosives at the curb in front of the building, pylons and barriers have sprung up, though lately architects are designing these to be part of the look of the building: large cement planter boxes or other decorative bollards keep vehicles from approaching high-risk targets. Where there is space, plazas sit between the road and the building, to keep vehicles from approaching, while at the same time giving pedestrians a pleasant area for meetings, lunches, and breaks.

The assistant mayor for tourism of Paris, Jean-Francois Martins, said of the wall (which will replace the current maze of temporary steel barriers): “We have three aims—to improve the look, make access easier, and strengthen the protection of visitors and staff.”

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