Can architecture champion the new war on terror in Nigeria?
When it comes to protecting themselves, Nigeria’s elites take it very seriously. Owing to that concern, Nigerians have spent billions of Naira on bulletproof cars and counting. But even after protecting themselves on the roads, there are still concerns about protection at home, office and places of worship. The hundreds of bombings on places of worship, as well as the United Nations building in Abuja in recent years by Boko Haram Terrorists are a grim reminder of the fact that security does not end at driving antiballistic vehicles.
An ongoing anti terror measure taking place in Paris may be ushering in a new direction for anti terror spearheaded by architects.
Paris is erecting a $20 million glass wall around the Eiffel Tower. According to plan, the magnificent iron lattice tower with the unique four-arched girder base will be hedged by a transparent, bulletproof protective perimeter.
The Eiffel Tower may be the world’s most spectacular architectural marvel; that makes it a prominent terrorism target. France is still under a heightened state of security following multiple terrorist attacks that have killed more than 300 citizens since 2014, including the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine shooting, the coordinated Paris attacks, and the Bastille Day attack in Nice. French natives are aghast at the idea of an Eiffel Tower wall, but the new reality is slowly registering. Paris will construct the “anti-ballistic” wall as another layer of security, dictated by the recent spike in terror plots. Better safe than sorry.
Architecture is a freedom of expression—a commentary on open skylines, environments, people, communities, and society itself. But how far should society go when that freedom is threatened by unnatural forces such as terrorism? No city in the world today is is immune from security threats to its citizens, structures and populated plazas.
“The front lines of defense—our police, military and intelligence services—have not proved to be fully effective against determined adversaries, and perhaps they cannot be successful,” says Thomas Vonier, a Paris and Washington, D.C.-based architect with an extensive record in security planning and design. “The real front line becomes the public realm: streets, squares, and promenades, schools, courthouses, and places of worship, commerce and assembly. So architects are on the front line. Security is very much a part of what architects must consider.”
Barbara Nadel, a New York-based architect, says free society is still grappling with openness and security in an era of escalating threats and unprecedented violence. She says the integration of security planning and efficient design is a fundamental concept architects, engineers and building owners must master for every major project—primarily for liability issues.
With Nigerian elites’ deep concern about protecting themselves and Nigerian architects’ insatiable thirst to meet changing demands, it would seem like a new sub-industry is in the offing in Nigeria.