|Tsar Bomb Explosion, Russia, 1961 (source)
During the cold war, the US and the Soviet Union developed increasingly potent hydrogen bombs, in an effort to demonstrate technological and military superiority. However, as the bombs became larger and larger in scale, they became less and less effective as weapons of war, as their size made them almost impossible to deploy. The bombs, no longer useful on the actual battlefield, were relegated to missile testing grounds, where the explosions became media events: massive nuclear fireworks displays, meant to shock, awe and intimidate, locally and abroad.
The Soviet Tsar bomb was the largest and most powerful hydrogen bomb ever tested, with a total destruction radius of twenty-two miles and a nuclear yield of fifty megatons (the most powerful American hydrogen bomb, Castle Bravo, had a yield of fifteen megatons). The power of this visual spectacle proved overwhelming, and the bomb was never tested at its designed potency of 100 megatons:
—Viktor Adamsky and Yuri Smirnov, ‘Moscow’s Biggest Bomb’
E. Sean Bailey
|U. S. Embassy, Accra, Ghana, 2007 (source)
Given the current security climate in many parts of the world, some buildings with particular political or social functions are at an increased risk of being attacked with improvised devices, truck bombs, etc. As a result, they are being built or renovated with this potential threat in mind. While presently the likelihood of attack on some of these buildings is high, it is possible that the threat may transform or completely disappear over time. However, as a response to the current situation, heavy duty barriers are incorporated into new and existing designs. Erecting permanent, overwhelming barriers such as hefty planters and unsightly bollards, combined with large setbacks, may not be the best solution for an evolving issue. Additionally, this sort of public treatment of a building promotes an aggressive urban atmosphere. Some recent examples of embassy architecture, such as the Dutch Embassy in Ghana and the UK Embassy in Yemen, provide a means of exploring how to create openness through varied boundaries that are able to engage their environment while fulfilling a protective function without proposing a solution that takes on a form that is overtly defensive.
Erandi de Silva
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