Housing Complex

Latest Perimeter Security Designs Get Marginally Better

What the fences will look like.

Last year, after Osama bin Laden had been killed and the tenth anniversary of September 11th was nearly upon us, I took a look at how well D.C.'s haphazard security measures were being baked into the landscape. The conclusion: Not badly, given that ideas for how to protect buildings from truck bombs were moving beyond bollards and towards street furniture that makes the public realm more comfortable, not just obstructed.

The next federal facility up for permanent protection is the Herbert Hoover building, home to the Department of Commerce and currently ringed by massive planters. According to a proposal to the National Capital Planning Commission, the General Services Administration plans a low fence around the building's perimeter, with—wonder of wonders!—the occasional "niche" where pedestrians might sit and rest. The NCPC staff are asking for more in that regard, but are generally on board with the approach, which is friendlier than security cordons past.

Of course, this is the new normal: In an ideal world, they'd be retrofitting the building for ground-floor retail instead of installing indestructible barriers. But in 21st-century Washington, you take what you can get.

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