Those lovers of awful Orwellian control architecture, the Home Office, which festered for years in the creepy, brutal and impractical 50 Queen Anne's Gate buildings, with their notorious heating and ventilation systems. have set up a Competition for Architects and Designers:
It is easy to partially protect buildings for the elite, against suicide truck bomb attacks, through the use of ancient fortification techniques like moats and a raised piano nobile - which were originally designed against ancient or medieval battering rams and rioting mobs of peasants.
Many drab Government or Corporate buildings feature lots of reinforced concrete, small toughened safety glass windows, net curtains (with a large amount of slack at the bottom to gather up flying debris) etc., and vast numbers of intimidating or sneaky CCTV cameras, but to protect large crowds of the hoi polloi, is an altogether much more difficult task.
The actual competition brief is available from the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, commonly known as the RSA.
A project for students of architecture and design
Developed in collaboration between the Home Office and NaCTSO (National Counter Terrorism Security Office), the RSA and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), this project aims to draw attention to the issues of security and counter-terrorism in the process of designing places visited and used by the public.
The Project Brief seems to be rather unrealistic
Two suicide PBIEDs and two suicide VBIEDs were deployed in Vincent Square, a piazza full of people enjoying lunch on a warm, sunny day. One VBIED was able to enter the front atrium of an office block facing onto the piazza. The resulting blast caused the building to collapse. The two PBIEDs were detonated within the crowd of people on the piazza and the second VBIED managed to get close to a building but was unable to penetrate it. Although there was extensive damage to the building it did not collapse
Not even the largest Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices have managed to penetrate a building atrium and collapse a modern building in recent years e.g. neither.the US Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, nor the Baltic Exchange in City of London in 1992, nor the Arndale Centre in Manchester in 1996, nor the London Docklands South Quay attack in 1996, nor the very recent the Marriott Hotel bomb last month in Islamabad Pakistan.
Buildings which did suffer collapsed floors e.g. the FBI building in Oklahoma City in 1995 either had car parking access under the building or collapsed after subsequent fires. Even a bomb in an underground car park right up against the structural supports in not guaranteed to cause a building collapse - the World Trade Center in New York survived such an attack in 1993.
N.B. the current chief executive of the RSA, is the notorious Mathew Taylor, the NuLabour apparatchik who was Tony Blair's "chief political advisor", who verbally attacked the UK political blogosphere, but somehow now publishes his partisan Labour party political thoughts on his own blog which is, inappropriately hosted, on the Royal Society of Arts website.
Will anyone researching an entry for this competition, who takes photos of public buildings and their existing anti-terrorism "features", be harassed by jobsworths in the current "War on Photographers" ?
Will anyone researching an entry for this competition who does some proper calculations and research into bomb resistant materials, designs and techniques, be arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 collection of information "thought crime" law ?
Will the winners of this competition be snapped by companies competing for the planned new replacement for the "prize winning architect" designed US Embassy in Grosvenor Square ?.
This is now surrounded with dubious steel barriers which can be raised from under the surface of the surrounding streets, supposedly to impede a vehicle borne bomb, but which can only work if the attackers somehow lose the element of surprise.
The 600 room US Embassy building is now too small for the needs of the bureaucrats, and which has signed a preliminary deal to re-develop a site in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth, near the derelict Battersea Power station and the MI6 Secret Intelligence Services building in Vauxhall Cross,
N.B. only US led consortia are allowed to bid for this, for "security" reasons, but local talent is allowed in a subordinate role.
London New Embassy Solicitation Number: SAQMMA09RLONDON2009 Agency: Department of State Office: Office of Logistics Management Location: Acquisition Management
Oct 30, 2008 10:51 am
This site appears to be on the development site owned currently by the Irish property developers Ballymore, near to the UK Government Car and Dispatch Agency and the Metropolitan Police Garages in Ponton Road.
Anybody submitting ideas, or judging this competition, should look at the photos of modern urban fortifications around the world at Bryan Finoki's Subtopia - a field guide to military urbanism blog.