Columbia University Spring 2003
Third Year Design Studio
In reflection of 9-11, many have analyzed, challenged and mused over issues of public space; in the city, in the neighborhoods and in the roles of daily lives. Each day one faces the impact of those events in the public arena and each day a portion of that realm travels home with us to our domestic spaces of privacy and intimacy. Quietly new architectural projects have begun to alter the public realm often responding to pragmatic functions without contemplation of the underlying issues. Concomitantly, new concerns have developed regarding security, boundary, surveillance and national identity. Since 9-11, these concerns have also become a primary disquiet within the government’s operative dominion and ultimately resulted as the catalyst in developing a new branch of government; The Department of Homeland Security.
It has been 55 years (the inception of the National Security Council, 1947) since the United States has formed a new branch of government. In the most optimistic sense, it is a moment in which to re-evaluate the symbolism of the Federal Government and an opportunity to create a building infrastructure that moves away from nostalgic imagery to define a new future. Initially conceived as an office to advise and assist the President without substantial independent authority, The Department of Homeland Security was ultimately instated in November of 2002. As an agency with statutory authority controlling many areas of government under its own control, it also houses areas of government that have subversive activities that are beyond the knowledge of the Senate. Some of the departments under its authority have celebrated the civic nature of architecture and become symbolic anchors in their communities, while other agencies it will absorb have worked hard to fade into the fabric of the nation, camouflaging their headquarters behind innocuous facades; a structure, which potentially could shift the civil liberties of our citizens and visitors.
Ultimately, whether celebrated or ordinary, obvious or hidden, the combined need for a regional Department of Homeland Security Headquarters and adjacent employee domiciles, is fertile territory in which to explore the two overlapping scales of our new domestic landscape.