Fear by design

Fear by design


Written by: IRR News Team, IRR News Team

The Home Office has recently introduced a range of new initiatives in partnership with the creative industries, with the aim of embedding counter-terror and anti-crime measures into the design of public spaces.

In his 2008 review, security minister Lord West recommended that crowded areas would be better protected against attacks if professional bodies within the design field were made more aware of counter-terrorism measures; the initiatives detailed below appear to be a response.

Public Spaces, Safer Places is a competition for architecture students, challenging them to consider security and safety features when designing a fictional public space. The brief was developed in collaboration with creative organisations and the police, and presents participants with a fictitious terrorist attack, taking place in a space approximately one hectare in size. The competition brief calls for the ‘integration of security features’ into the design with the ‘overall aim to prevent and reduce injuries to occupants as a result of a bomb blast’.

The second project is also supported by the Home Office, which is working with the Design and Technology Alliance to develop the Designing Out Crime Initiative. This brings together the public sector, crime experts, designers and victims of crime to develop design solutions to a range of crime-related problems. The Design Council will lead the £1.6 billion programme over the next three years, with a view to prototyping and showcasing products in order to demonstrate their market potential.

Significantly, both of these initiatives are aimed at young people, the first by asking them to make security and protection a vital element of the design process, and the second by focusing on crimes that relate to young people, including solutions to bullying, fighting and petty theft in schools, and anti-social and alcohol-related crime in pubs and clubs.

The move to establish security-led design at the stage of conception has also been affirmed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. At the unveiling of the Design and Technology Alliance’s programme, she cited the success of working with the mobile phone industry in reducing theft of personal electronics. Lord West hailed the Home Office competition, which offers a £2,000 prize, as a ‘great opportunity for students of architecture and design to make a significant contribution to protecting our country’s crowded places from terrorist attacks’.

The winner of the Public Spaces, Safer Places competition is due to be announced very shortly. The competition was critcised by leading architect Piers Gough, a member of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, who accused the government of trying to foster a ‘culture of fear’ about terrorism. He called on students to boycott the competition, which has had around 100 entries, calling it ‘the propagation of paranoia’.

Related links

Read about the security review by Lord West

Home Office on the Public Spaces, Safer Places competition

More information on the Public Spaces, Safer Places competition

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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