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Norman Foster: Westminster security barriers are a ‘national outrage’

Norman Foster HR crop use
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Norman Foster has slammed the design of security barriers outside the Palace of Westminster, during his keynote speech at the British Council for Offices (BCO) conference

Speaking at the event in central London, Foster described the bulky anti-terrorist measures barriers as a ‘national outrage [given] all the design skills in the nation’.

He added: ‘[If] This is the only way you can protect against the truck bomb… it’s an urban horror’.

Foster made the comments during an explanation of the less visible security measures used in Foster + Partners’ own design of its nearly-completed Bloomberg office at Walbrook Square in the City of London

He said that his practice ‘solved the problem’ of security in the public space around the building by drafting in Spanish artist Cristina Inglesias to design a feature.

Foster said the structures would perform the ‘same role as the barriers are performing outside the Palace of Westminster’.

The Westminster terror attack in March, which left five people dead, has prompted debate around the effectiveness of security measures at the palace.

Foster’s speech also discussed the need for office buildings to be designed in a way that is sociable, and with workers’ wellbeing in mind.

‘[The office] should be not just about work in isolation, it should be about lifestyle. It should have a social heart, a social focus.

‘It should be able to adapt, to change. It should be sustainable in terms of being responsible in relating to issues of climate change, energy, pollution.’

This ‘social heart’, he said, would be exhibited in the Bloomberg building, through a central atrium, which connects the floors using a spiralling staircase.

‘The circulation is quite interesting in terms of [it being] a social facility,’ he said.

He also talked about the importance of sustainability, saying that sustainable architecture ‘is not something you should sprinkle on like fairy dust - it should be right at the heart of strategic design thinking’.

Foster also discussed the design of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank Headquarters in Hong Kong (1986), London City Hall (2002) and the Gherkin (2004).

The British Council for Offices annual conference took place between 9 and 11 May. It was chaired by Ken Shuttleworth, the incoming president of the British Council for Offices.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Rogers

    He is entirely right about the Millbank barriers, which are awful. Though I dislike them either in principle, the stone/concrete 'classical' balustrade version in neighbouring streets are better aesthetically.

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