'Out of Proportion' Security Measures Damaging Nation's Capital

Plans for a massive new Pentagon-sized Homeland Security complex threaten to ruin one of the finest vistas in Washington, D.C.
June 9, 2006, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"Concerns for the physical safety of people and buildings continue to permeate Washington's architectural atmosphere. Actually, 'pollute' is the more fitting verb. [O]ur responses -- defined strictly in terms of physical measures designed to protect Washington's buildings and the people in them -- are vastly out of proportion...it is almost impossible to overstate the damage being done to the beauty and symbolism of the nation's capital. The open city becomes more fortified by the week.

...Yes, there have been design successes. The stone walls that oval the Washington Monument protect it from vehicle-delivered explosives, and yet lie lightly in the land. The stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House remains closed to traffic but, thanks largely to the NCPC, it is much more attractive and open than it was for almost a decade after President Bill Clinton shut it in 1995.

Those successes, though, are far outweighed by dramatic examples of fortification. The Capitol and its grounds are ringed by permanent bollards. The building's great west esplanade, with its nonpareil views of the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, remains closed to the public. South of the White House, E Street -- an important crosstown connector -- stays firmly closed to traffic."

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Published on Sunday, June 4, 2006 in The Washington Post
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