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10.19.2005
Breaking Ground
Rogers Marvel shows that security design needn't be defensive and formidable. With a holistic design approach, they provethat that therees more to safe streets than bollards and bomb dogs. Sara Moss reports.

Rogers Marvel shows that security design needn't be defensive and formidable. With a holistic design approach, they prove that that there's more to safe streets than bollards and bomb dogs. Sara Moss reports.

Courtesy Rogers Marvel Architects

Addressing post-9/11 security requirements is now a central part of designing any major urban project. The obvious, and disheartening, reflex is to beef things uppto thicken walls, install barriers, widen distancessa trend most visibly seen in the redesigned Freedom Tower. But building fortresses and barricading streets aren't the only solutions. In two recent projects, Rogers Marvel Architects (RMA) has shown that safety can be integrated in subtle, multidimensional, and even beautiful ways.

In 2002, the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) hired the RMA team after an open RFP process to oversee the streetscape improvement project, which included designing street lighting, furniture, and landscape features, as well as traffic planning. The project was prompted by both the congestion from last stages of building out the neighborhood as well as post-9/11 security activity (such as truck screening), which was making pedestrian and vehicular traffic worse. Security measures were an implicit part of everything they did. It's not healthy to feel like you're a target all the time,, said Rogers. From the beginning, we were talking about streetscapes as the thing to look at and the thing to start with.. The project team also included Sam Schwartz (traffic consultant), Ducibella Venter & Santore (security consultant), Weidlinger Associates (blast and security engineer), and James Carpenter Design Associates (art elements).Rogers Marvel designed a series of bus shelters and glass benches that double as security measures in Battery Park City

A core of collapsible concrete in front of the bench prevents heavily loaded vehicles get too close to the World Financial Center.
 

Addressing how Battery Park City meets its surrounding neighborhood, the designers found themselves deep in solving urban design problems that required large-scale decisions. Improving vehicular and pedestrian trafficcwhich would lessen potential threatsswas a paramount concern. With Schwartz, RMA devised a plan that called for adding raised crosswalks on North End Avenue (between 6 and 8 inches high, they make the street level with the curb). Further down the North End Avenue at Murray Street, they added neck-downss (curb extensions at intersections to slow down vehicles) to eliminate long, unimpeded approaches to Battery Park properties. These keep cars from picking up too much speed as they near the area. They also added truck and taxi lay-bys, areas where the vehicles could wait while separated from the street by barriers.

Even the sidewalks assumed protective powers in Rogers Marvel's scheme. RMA used the existing cobblestone band that surrounds much of the World Financial Center to install a special collapsible fillla kind of concrete that's ordinarily used at the end of airport runways. The fill is sturdy enough for pedestrians but is designed to give under the weight of anything heavy, like a truck bomb. The firm sought advice from the Army Corps of Engineers on the urban use of the material and eventually entered into an agreement to share their research. So many architectural projects start out with form but this is real science,, enthused Marvel. It feels great to be working on this level..

At night, LEDs illuminate the benches and shelters.

RMA also infused security qualitiessand hence multifunctionalityyin other elements, like cast-glass and stainless steel benches that are both furniture and illumination. Working with James Carpenter, the bench is luminescent depending on the angle of the sun; at night, it is lit by LEDs. The benches form an axis a quarter-mile long, from the site of the future Ferry Terminal to the World Trade Center site. The elements on the other axis, along North End Avenue, are lightweight stainless steel and structural glass shade structures that are lit from below, also designed with Carpenter. Interlayers in the glass bounce the light back down at night so that light pollution is minimized. One structure provides a shelter at the new dog run; another provides a structure for security workers checking trucks in the street.

After presenting their Battery Park City work to city agencies, RMA asked to consult for designing security for the New York Stock Exchange, which led to a larger projecttNew York Financial District Streetscapes + Security, started in 2003. There, RMA were presented with a very different situation: a landmarked district with many clients (the DCP, LMDC, and EDC) and stakeholders (the New York Stock Exchange, Alliance for Downtown New York, and Bank of New York))all with serious concerns about safety.

A fountain in front of the New York Stock Exchange (top) which would separate NYSE employees with security clearance from pedestrians.

Many of the streets in Lower Manhattan have been closed off since 9/11, creating traffic nightmares and logistical headaches for businesses. At the Wall Street intersections, RMA used retractable bollardssa sort of trap-door system that will allow bollards to drop below street grade. However, at Broad Street, tangles of utility lines below the street made this solution nearly impossible (and prohibitively expensive). RMA needed a solution that could be installed quickly and sit within a shallow depth. As in Battery Park City, RMA found their solution on the ground plane. Working again with security experts Ducibella Venter & Santore, and with Quennell Rothschild & Partners (landscape architect) and Philip Habib & Associates (traffic engineering), they came up with a rotating disc that sits level with the ground. With bollards lined up across it, the 20-inch deep disc rotates to allow vehicles to pass by when necessary. In a nod to some of the surrounding historic buildings' heavy old doors, the faceted bollards (which are in MoMA's Safe show) are made of bronze. RMA patented the crash-test rated turntables.

This patent, along with ones for other RMA designs, will be handled by the office's newest spin-off, Rock Twelve, a division for research and patenting of security architecture. Rock Twelve will share resources with TRUCK, RMA's product architecture division. These other divisions permit development of side projects while keeping the firm's main focus on architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design. Rogers stresses that in the end, he and his colleagues are architects, not security experts. Their holistic approach, however, is proving to be popularrboth the Battery Park City and Financial District projects have won numerous awards in the past year.

Rogers Marvel has taken the sting out of security measures in the Financial District with bronze bollards that double as benches on Wall Street.

And both are being used as demonstration projects for the development of new FEMA security guidelines. And the firm was recently invited to work on a pedestrian open space project for the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. We have no ambition to be security guys,, said Rogers, but what we like to do is to be incredibly inventive and solve problems. That's what good architects do..
Sara Moss works on the Fulton Street Transit Center project.

Sara Moss