Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. – Benjamin Franklin
Technology is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other. – C.P. Snow
Do we opt for the tough concrete barrier, the cast-iron baroque bench that can withstand the impact of a lorry, or do we engage a trendy office to design a stylized fence? Actually, it does not matter, it is just a question of style. As a direct consequence of the events of 9/11, high-risk buildings are being turned into fortresses. Walls, fences, posts and cordons sanitaires seal such buildings off from the surrounding area. In the process, valuable public space is lost. The concrete barriers are the most frequently mentioned examples of this fortification offensive. Still, the effects of these highly visible security measures are confined to the immediate vicinity; the interventions do not change society substantially and besides, they are reversible.
Anti-terrorism measures with no obvious visible consequences have a much greater impact on society. Such interventions are ubiquitous and of a permanent nature. Their purpose is to detect terrorists early on and to prevent attacks from taking place. They are coupled with increased powers for the state, allowing it to monitor people even before they have committed an indictable offence and to deny citizens the use of public space. These legal amendments are accompanied by the deployment of new technologies to detect, monitor and intervene. The role of public space shifts and its users are relegated to the status of consumers. This article describes these changes and argues in favour of finding solutions that strengthen the city.