Defense Design

John Hayden

Arc 134- Section 006



Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe once said, “Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.” What Mies was insinuating was that the value of architecture lies in its permanent physical form. This is very true to an extent in modern times. With the development of technology, architecture extends outside the boundaries of physicality and reaches more towards psychology and technology, thus changing the forms that are produced from such factors.


Throughout history, defense has been the primary concern of almost every civilization. Defend against nature, defense against other civilizations, defense against unwanted outsiders, even defense against ideas. For the most part, the longest reigning method of defense is the wall. A structure, vertically oriented and solid, surrounds a specific area, protects whatever is inside and keeps out whatever is outside. As technology slowly developed, walls became more and more elaborate. They started as mere circular wooden enclosures but became more and more complex with time. By the medieval times walls had been built and arranged in a strategic system to accommodate the needs of the defenders. Built of strong materials such as rock, and thickened to allow for a man to stand atop. Some of the most elaborate and well-built walls could withstand attack for years, that was until gunpowder was developed. The invention of gunpowder had rendered the wall obsolete. As nations began to prosper and grow during the industrial revolution, defense fell into the hands of the military. The architecture of defense had shifted from massive walls to strategically placed buildings throughout an area, mostly in the form of trenches, forts and outposts. Technology has advanced even further since then. Enemies no longer wear uniforms and march into foreign nations looking for head to head conflict. Modern threats wear the same clothes as a common citizen and sit behind a computer thousands of miles away. An attack on any building can be carried out from any location in the world, rendering defense fairly useless. Defense however can be integrated into a building, even into a whole block of buildings, not to stand tall and proud but rather subtly waiting, apart of the everyday use of the building but in disguise always ready for when it is needed.


According to James McDonald, Castles were designed to give the defenders the greatest possible advantage over their attackers. Walls were laid out in such a way so that here would be no “dead spaces” or spots where attackers could seek shelter against the wall. They were also designed so that no enemy could undermine the wall by building on solid rock or digging a moat. Britannica encyclopedia describes the defenses of a castle as a series of outer walls around a keep accompanied by a series of moats. These walls and moats were had only one vulnerable spot, the gate. Builders accounted for this by building heavily fortified gatehouses that could withstand enemy attempts to breech the wall. The citadel or keep was often the center of the defenses, the last resort and the most fortified, would be the place where the defenders would retreat to. This created a centrality to every defense system.  With the keep at the center of the defense other defensive systems radiated from the keep. These fortresses stood for hundreds of years until Europeans had developed fire arms. In 1494 the French invaded Italy and systematically dismantled every castle they came upon with their new firearms. Buildings that were once meant to withstand attack for months and years were now taken down in a matter of hours. The great defenses of medieval times had now become no more than a mere obstacle to an invading force.


With the development of weapons and further advancement in technology, the once simple system of defense had been destroyed. What  arose was a complex, fragmented mess. A network of buildings and men had become the new form of defense. This network allowed defense to be stretched over much longer distances. The difference this time that it was not so much about having the advantage as it was about being able to counter the ever-present threat of attack. One of history’s greatest examples of trying to use fortified walls as a defense in the age of machinery is the French Maginot Line. During World War I, the French had constructed a series of walls and fortifications that were meant to defend against the German Army. When it came time for the Germans to launch their attack, instead of spearheading the French defenses facing towards Germany, they moved around and attacked from the behind, the defenseless side of the French defenses. Defense had become mobile and much easier to deploy to counteract attacks by an opposing military. Predictably technology had outgrown this form of defense once again, but this time something else had changed, it was the enemy himself. Threats no longer came from nations but people, singular beings and small groups, often with no affiliation with larger parties such as an entire nation. The enemy now hid in the shadows of their targets.


The modern situation of defense lies primarily in surveillance, watching these certain parties, waiting for them to make an attempt at an attack. However through use of computer technology, it can often be impossible to pick up un such threats, now leaving the disadvantage to the defender. With no true sense of when an attack might occur until it happens it is key that “defense” must be ready. This defense must be integrated into daily life and even into the architecture the we encounter every day. The architecture of modern buildings can greatly change the effects of any thereat. Transparency is a key architectonic feature of modern defense, the ability to see everything takes away from a threat’s ability to go unseen. But before you can identify a threat, you must differentiate it from the non-threats. To do this you must use control via architecture and technology. Controlling the way people move, where they sit, where they stop, where they work offers the ability to use technology to locate these threats fairly easily. For example, having a controlled main entrance offers the chance for security to scan every person who passes through. It is though the principals of medieval defense once again apply to modern day threats. It should not be about keeping out everyone because of a possible attack, the principle should be based on allowing people to move in and out a controlled environment and using the control the pick out threats. By taking all of the fragments and specifying each piece, it makes the system stronger. Using architectural form as a controlling agent is the most-subtle way of preventing threats. The architecture must also be versatile, so it may be able to change as the threats around it do. It world is changing rapidly , as do the people who live in it, also the threats of people and as should the architecture that defends the people.












Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>