architecture urban

Washington DC / Fortress of democracy

If the gov­ern­ment build­ings are any indi­ca­tion, Wash­ing­ton DC is a city brac­ing for some­thing. Makeshift bar­ri­ers sur­round the Capi­tol; men with auto­mat­ic weapons stand watch over ran­dom gov­ern­men­tal door­ways and inter­sec­tions. Sure, this is no dif­fer­ent than oth­er "sig­nif­i­can­t†places in the West­ern world — Lon­don and Frank­furt have their share of fortress­es and sen­tries — but as a cit­i­zen and ide­al­ist I'd hope that Wash­ing­ton would be dif­fer­ent. I'd hope that *we* would do it differently.

Flickr photoOur law­mak­ing build­ings were designed to be approached: Sit­ting at the head of the Mall's long run­way, the Capi­tol Build­ing inspires fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion. Nowa­days, if a per­son (say, me) decides to take a pic­ture of the fences around this bea­con of democ­ra­cy, that per­son may get rep­ri­mand­ed by a guy with a gun. I'm just say­ing: It happens.

Any­way, I hope that we'll search for solu­tions to the prob­lem of secu­ri­ty that don't run counter to the ideals of democ­ra­cy: that law­mak­ers oper­ate in the open, that any­one can see how it's done (and indeed that every­one should see how it's done), that peo­ple are inno­cent until proven guilty, and that I'm pay­ing for those fences, dammit, so I should be able to take a pic­ture of them with­out get­ting harassed.UPDATE: Even the new $50 bill empha­sizes the approach­a­bil­i­ty of the Capitol.

50 dollar billCheck out the lit­tle white fig­ures climb­ing the steps on the left-hand side of the Capi­tol build­ing. This seems to imply, to me, that peo­ple can (and should) walk up the stairs to see what's hap­pen­ing with­in the hal­lowed halls of democracy.