Planners Rethink Urban Designs

Design School discusses New York’s rebuilding, incorporating security

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will change the direction of urban planning instruction and research at Harvard and beyond, according to faculty and students at the Graduate School of Design (GSD).

“Up until now, urban planners were not worried about security,” said Associate Professor of Urban Planning Jerold S. Kayden. “We have received a huge slap in the face that tells us we have to take security very seriously.”

Professor in Practice of Urban Design Alex Krieger, chair of the GSD’s department of urban planning, said that while GSD course offerings have not yet changed, current thought has.

“Discussion in existing courses, over matters such as open public space, might differ,” he said.

Sixteen graduate students have already formed the Harvard World Trade Center Regeneration Research Group, which will analyze the World Trade Center attack and study options for the site’s regeneration and future construction.

Four to five students participating in the research group plan to write a combined thesis next semester based on their analyses.

The issues in urban planning raised by the recent attacks are so great that GSD is considering offering a spring course “dealing with the reconstruction of the New York City area,” Krieger said.

Krieger said rising security concerns will cause conflict among urban planners.

“There is going to be greater conflict between people in planning who believe that the best city is open and accessibile and those who [support] the security response,” he said.

Increased security, Krieger added, is not necessarily beneficial.

“At the moment, increased security is a short-term response to terrorism, and I think it’s to the detriment of all of our citizens,” he said. “I’m not even sure it’s the best response—an airplane wasn’t going to be stopped by a Jersey barrier in front of the

World Trade Center.”

Krieger said he worries that fear of additional attacks will deter Americans from living and working in the cities, a trend revived only a decade ago.

“Having just reacquainted themselves with the benefits of the city, a potential shifting away from urbanism is not so healthy for Americans,” he said.

Population decentralization, Kayden said, may result.

“People may decide they don’t want to live in densely populated areas and be fearful of working in tall buildings. Businesses may not want all their resources located in one area,” he said.