Boston Society of Architecture “Research in Architecture Grant” The Secure City: Design and Perception of Public Space Post 9/11

Susan Silberberg was awarded a competitive research grant from the Boston Society of Architects to investigate the design and perception of public space post 9/11.  Terrorist events have caused many cities and the federal government to rethink issues of public accessibility, open space design and perimeter building protection.  This redesign and retrofit of public space to create a secure public realm has prompted responses ranging from organized efforts to identify roles for professionals and win government design contracts, to public outrage at the changes to urban space and the erection of new barriers to accessibility and openness.  Susan Silberberg’s original research seeks to discover and explore the people and forces that are re-shaping the public realm in major cities to provide comprehensive information to design professionals, public officials, and academics about the decision-making processes and the impacts of public realm securitization.  Beginning in Boston in 2006, her research continues to seek answers to the following questions:


  • What specific motives, funding and regulations have prompted secure urban design efforts? 
  • Which efforts are coordinated and “designed” and which are ad hoc responses, and why?
  • How do these efforts affect both the physical design of public space and the actual use?  What are changes in the public perceptions of these retrofitted secure urban spaces?  
  • Who is involved in securitization and what roles do they play within the private and public sectors?


Through field work, scholarly research, interviews and case study assessment, Susan Silberberg’s research team continues to explore these questions in Boston and New York City.  Findings from her Boston research are presented in ““Pretext securitization of Boston’s public realm after 9/11: Motives, actors and a role for planners” in Policing Cities: Securitization and Regulation in a 21st Century World (Routledge, 2013).