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Urban design & terrorism

I intended to write this shortly months ago, but perhaps it is appropriate or at least ironic to document these concepts on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

For millenia, city design has been closely tied to protection from enemies.  From city walls to castles and forts to the labyrinthine passages of Mykonos, defensibility has always mattered.  After World Wars One and Two, the development of suburbia was actually promoted as a modern defense to modern weaponry and destruction. 

As much as I hate to admit it, the decentralization of the population as a defense against bombs and nuclear weapons was not an entirely bad idea.  But the cost to our psychosocial health has been high, and the cost in oil and pollution is high.

In June, I was introduced to a drawing by Leon Krier, which succinctly argues what is perhaps the middle ground:  low-rise construction, in high density, is urban without being an easy target.  Krier is opposed to both urban sprawl and, what he terms, "vertical sprawl."


The drawing depicts the number of jets necessary to take down the World Trade Center, versus the number required to destroy more broadly distributed square footage.  Krier's drawing is perhaps suggests part of the urban planning response to the current threat of terrorism.  With mid-rise structures, casualties would more limited than with high-rise.  And, there is always the argument that this size is more humane and pleasant to begin with.



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