Not so long ago, architects were obsessed with the notion that globalism, the Internet and sophisticated new building technologies were opening the way for a more fluid, transparent landscape in which walls would simply begin to melt away...Things didn’t turn out that way. -NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
So begins a recent piece in the NY Times regarding a trend in city planning that is looking more medeival at every turn. The article centers on fear as a design factor that is increasingly looking permanent in major cities such as New York and even London. Call it the 'green zone' effect. Fence building around the globe is booming along borders but urban fences are beginning to sprout or simply remain permanent even though they have been intended as temporary for one reason or another. We have historic examples such as Wall Street or Thom Mayne’s Caltrans District 7 headquarters building in Los Angeles but new occurances are evident in Miami, London, Jerusalem and infamously now with New York's "Freedom Tower". The "Freedom Tower", far from being a symbol of enlightenment is a windowless fortified concrete base decorated in prismatic glass panels. It is a monument to paranoia. Not what the original designers had in mind. All of this can perhaps be written off as an American post-911 phenomena.
However, as Ouroussoff observes:
Like their 13th- to 15th-century counterparts, contemporary architects are being enlisted to create not only major civic landmarks but lines of civic defense, with aesthetically pleasing features like elegantly sculpted barriers around public plazas or decorative cladding for bulky protective concrete walls. These tendencies could be easily adopted throughout the globe as urban centers face new challenges related to new immigration populations, energy resources, and developments in global technology and trade.
As noted on this blog, "the number of foreigners living in Finland has quadrupled over the past fifteen years. This is partly to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of borders, Finland joining the EU, and the internationalization of Finnish companies and Finnish society". As Helsinki's population begins to expand and incorporate more and more people it will need to make efforts to not only prevent a wide income disparity - which it has had success with - but allow for urban design that promotes growth through incorporation and participation of traditional citizens as well as new citizens. Interaction of diverse communities is the key. Separation only serves fear.
image: Freedom Tower design, NYC