Fortress North America Essay

Fortress North America Essay-43
" data-hires="/uploads/image/attachment/1931/full_screen_42_Wainwright_2_bollard-hedge.jpg" data-id="lightbox-image-block-409" src="/uploads/image/attachment/1931/c4_42_Wainwright_2_bollard-hedge.jpg" / To the north, the site is bordered with an English yew hedge, which leads to meadowland planted with species native to North America (“analogous to the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the architects reason). Secreted inside the foliage will be a line of steel and concrete bollards capable of stopping an eight-ton truck driving head-on at 40 miles per hour.If, by some miracle, a hostile vehicle does break through the hedge of steel, it will be confronted by a wall of seating at the other end of the meadow, along with two sharp changes of level, and then the great pond—a 100-foot expanse of water, behind which the embassy stands on a raised plinth, its defensive wall disguised by a gushing waterfall.Its thick glass shell is merely one layer of defense in a sprawling five-acre complex that takes the architecture and urbanism of fear to new heights.

" data-hires="/uploads/image/attachment/1931/full_screen_42_Wainwright_2_bollard-hedge.jpg" data-id="lightbox-image-block-409" src="/uploads/image/attachment/1931/c4_42_Wainwright_2_bollard-hedge.jpg" / To the north, the site is bordered with an English yew hedge, which leads to meadowland planted with species native to North America (“analogous to the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” the architects reason). Secreted inside the foliage will be a line of steel and concrete bollards capable of stopping an eight-ton truck driving head-on at 40 miles per hour.

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It is labeled as a “bioswale” for environmental purposes, but it just so happens to be conveniently scaled so as to trap any kind of moving vehicle that might try to make a break across the meadow.

It is a traditional British ha-ha, originally used to keep animals off the lawns of country houses, updated for 21st-century security needs.

But these additions were still not deemed enough to protect this outpost of Fortress America.

Following a series of high-profile attacks on US embassies elsewhere in the world—including lethal bombings in 1983 outside the Beirut mission, and then in 1998 at embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, during which 220 embassy workers were killed and thousands more injured—US Congress ruled that all embassies must be set back from the street behind a 100-foot “seclusion zone,” and be built within a self-contained site of at least four and a half acres.

One of the biggest sections of the show is made up of hostile vehicle mitigation devices disguised as street furniture, showing how several tons of concrete and steel can be variously hidden inside benches, planters, and other hefty lumps to further clutter the sidewalk.

Visit any of the capital’s major sights today—from the pseudo-public spaces beneath the Shard and Walkie-Talkie skyscrapers, to Kings Cross Station and the Olympic site—and you’ll see clusters of these seats-on-steroids, the contemporary city’s equivalent of moats and ramparts, only cloaked in a costume of granite and foliage.To the south, the site is edged with another seating wall—benches affixed to a thick slab of truck-impeding concrete—behind which the landscape rises in a defensive berm, a.k.a.a “meadow” with the “sense of expansion characteristic of the rolling American plains.” As the cross section in the planning application shows, a third of the way along this mound the ground plummets into a steep ditch.A squat glass cube rises above the banks of the River Thames in Nine Elms, southwest London, colored with the same dark greenish-gray pallor as the murky waters of the river itself.It has a similar medicinal hue to the cheap glazing of the speculative apartment blocks nearby, but this is one of the most expensive façades in town—and there’s a reason for its sludgy tinge.Beginning as a very visible line of plastic bollards and police checkpoints, it has gradually dissolved into a barely perceptible border of CCTV cameras and license plate recognition software, rising bollards and strategic planting, chicanes and road closures, with the effect of progressively reducing the number of access points in and out of the Square Mile, making it easier to shut the city down at a moment’s notice.In many ways it has returned the financial capital to the medieval walled city of yore, the hefty wall of stone and mortar simply replaced with barriers of a more surreptitious kind.The design, the firm explained, was inspired by European castles—not in having 20-foot-thick stone walls and chutes for showering boiling oil down on the enemy, but in that the building’s defensive strategy would be hidden in the landscape.In principle, the scheme isn’t too far from a medieval motte and bailey.With the embassy soon to be surrounded by a complex of 2,000 luxury apartments in the form of the Embassy Gardens development—where every building will be set back at least 150 feet from the embassy’s building line—this new high-security enclave is just the latest example of how terrorism has become one of the key forces shaping the nature of London’s urban fabric as the city moves toward becoming a network of gated islands.The City of London first introduced a necklace of perimeter security measures—known as the Ring of Steel—in the early 1990s, in response to the terror threat posed by the IRA after a 1993 bomb attack wreaked havoc on Bishopsgate.

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