After Aurora, San Bernardino, Paris, etc., security - especially for active shooter events - is front and center in the minds of performing arts managers. At the San Antonio Performing Arts Managers Conference (PAMC), a team of presenters, including representatives of the Dept. Of Homeland Security and the San Antonio Police Department (and a guy named "Justice", who had once taken down a narcoterrorist) conducted a training session for such a scenario - including a simulated mass shooter. The need for theaters to undergo periodic training, such as this session, was emphasized as a way of being prepared to "disrupt the threat". As they pointed out, the term "active shooter event" is just a euphemism for mass murder, and the frequency of such events has increased dramatically since 2000. Very sobering indeed.
What does this mean for our practice of architecture? We deal with security requirements in all sorts of public venues from theaters to museums to schools and universities. In DC, we can get a bit numb about this, and the proliferation of bollards around town following the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 certainly provoked a lot of ill feelings about what these measures have done to the nature of our public spaces. Architects are used to dealing with life safety issues related to building codes, but security is a somewhat newer issue. There may be obvious physical manifestations, such as security vestibules, bollards, and the need to incorporate complex security systems and security operations centers into our buildings. We constantly seek a balance of how to disguise these features while retaining their effectiveness as a deterrent. However, today's conference session really brought home that regardless of what security measures can be designed into our buildings, ultimately it is the human element that is critical. Understanding these concerns of building users - our clients and their stakeholders - can help us to design spaces that help in such situations.
Main entrance to National Air & Space Museum