Raising the Barrier

It’s horrible,” says Daniel Libeskind, referring to the proliferation of “Jersey barriers”—those concrete prisms, named for their Garden State origins, that have quietly appeared at building entrances all over town to keep out truck bombs. But, the ground-zero architect adds, “one can create them so that they camouflage the brutality of what we have to deal with daily.” Libeskind, away on vacation in Colorado, wasn’t able to sketch us an alternative, but four prominent architects obliged with the proposals below.

Photo: Corbis

1. For this project, interns from Winka Dubbeldam’s firm, Archi-Tectonics, went to photograph a Soho post office—only to be detained by the feds. “Totally fascist,” says Dubbeldam, who produced this solar-powered barrier, which collects energy by day and glows at night. (After her assistants’ run-in, she also proposed a row of steel pylons shaped like cops.)

2. Since his firm is remaking Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, Michael Van Valkenburgh has had safety in mind. His solution: several rows of trees, staggered to leave pedestrian paths. He says he wants “to use the security imperative to reconceive public spaces. Who wants to go around New York and feel like they’re in Beirut?”

3. Frederick Bland of Beyer Blinder Belle is designing guard booths for the White House. Here he proposes “security with beauty,” creating a place for socializing that can also stop a truck. The ovoid shape, he adds, is “city-friendly”—sharp corners and crowds don’t mix—and can be adapted to incorporate plaza staples like bike racks.

4. Likening Jersey barriers to sumo wrestlers, Daniel Kaplan of Fox & Fowle Architects, which designed the Condé Nast Building, suggests a jujitsu approach instead—one that turns the attacker’s mass against him. “Instead of a barrier, make the back two feet of the sidewalk strong enough to walk on but weak enough to break under a truck,” he says.

Raising the Barrier