The search for security means a new approach to building
Somewhere it is written of Buddha that, suspecting the motives of one of his most zealous disciples, he asked what he most desired in the world. 'Wisdom', replied the aspirant immediately. But this answer did not please the prophet.Grasping his disciple round the neck, Buddha made as if to strangle him.Then, when the pupil was on the brink of suffocation, he asked him the question again. This time the disciple gasped: 'To breathe! To breathe!'
Clearly this drastic method of distinguishing between needs and desires has no place in today's security community, but it was brought to mind by a similarly connected matter that has changed views on the subject of terrorism and counter-terrorism.
To understand the relationship of these two we must, as Buddha did, ram the facts together. On the one hand, we must not ignore the benefit that can come from the removal of obsolete structures by explosions or fires - what in the US used to be called 'the modern way to refinance', nor forget that even this tried-and-trusted scam has been rendered a tad too risky by the growing emphasis on security.
As if to prove this connection, in Europe a number of planned strategic links between motorway and mass transit networks and ports, airports and major rail stations have been put on hold in the past 12 months.
Many of them can now only be completed with the aid of substantial inward investment. Germany may be better placed than most in this regard but nowhere escapes entirely.
If this is the diminished size of the board upon which the game of development must now be played, then minor pieces like architecture face a bleak future. Its pretty pictures - like Buddha's disciple's idea of 'wisdom' - tend to precede the grim discovery that the necessity to breathe comes first.Where there is no publicly funded infrastructure, there will be no more privately funded architecture either.
Yet there is a ray of hope. Even as the heavy construction market in Europe continues to contract, another market is booming. In a manner that suggests where architects might look with advantage, last month saw a number of ageing security projects dusted down after spending the best part of two years on the back burner. If these £100 million projects now go ahead, then the dramatic mergers of the early 1990s, when the IRA had the City of London firmly in its sights, might yet create an entirely new kind of security industry.
It will be a hybrid of three kinds of business: surveillance, intelligence and construction.
Now it promises high-resolution camera coverage and interactive record-searching that will connect subscribers to an almost infinite number of information sources - from the world's military networks to police records in 168 national collections, stock exchanges, TV and film libraries, corporate data banks and newspaper files.More to the point, its construction arm promises an entirely different conception of the value and purpose of secure building design when separated from the old urban architectural constraints.
Buildings for the security industry will have to be designed from the inside out, in the best Modern tradition.They will have to go up fast and anywhere. They have to be reconfigurable practically overnight, and they must be prepared to disappear equally quickly, with no wailing and gnashing of teeth from architect-conservationists to record their passing.
If that sounds like the end of architecture as we know it, it is not. It is merely the end of the hegemony of art-history. As the specialists in the field already know, security architecture is a viable business, not a dying one.