The Residential development in the above picture is located in a prime locality of the National Capital.
Do such houses (as in the above picture) enhance security or reduce it?
Not only is the residence in the above picture reflective of a feudal and aristocratic mindset, signifying the divide between the elite and the common but also symbolic of the pre-occupation with fortification as the response to urban security challenges .

While the selfishness and narcissism of the owner may be discounted for ignorance, there is little to support the apathy of the municipal departments in their inability to check this rampant flaying of building regulations. Further what may seem like the owner’s vested interest in his security is actually contrary to the same.

Even the older constructions which were built in compliance of the building regulations, have reinforced their protection in line with security concerns (see pics below).

One would argue that this is the most obvious and simple architectural response to security in use since the eras of forts, palaces and moats. We as architects would further advise a layer of green/landscaped buffer to distance our client’s abode from the ills of the street’s air and noise. At the end , we may have achieved a happier client basking in the glory of his fiefdom but have shut them out of their contribution to the neighbourhood security.

How? …..
Picture a situation where someone on this street is being attacked or a girl being molested…..
Will anyone be available to help her? Will her cries for help ever be heard? Will there be anyone to stop the offenders? Will the offenders have any fear of being apprehended……
Unlikely and most likely not. On the flipside, let’s say someone in the house itself is being attacked or challenged and the owner is crying out for help. Who is going to hear or be available to help?

This is how the house and most others like it have failed in their duties towards their own and the community level security. Let us not forget that the community level security is also to our benefit finally. This is just a very simplistic example to show the approach to crime control (CPTED) being applied successfully across the world.

So while we have been busy blaming the government and police for all the security issues, the problem is actually deeper than just a security cover for the people. What is lacking today is the ‘security attitude’? Contemporary consumerism drives us to pin the blame on security agencies but we need to realise that security is not restricted to any one profession.

Security is the basal need of human being since his existence and is the reason for all social and architectural evolution. Communities and neighbourhoods developed as a response to the humans congregating and living together to secure themselves against a changing spectrum of enemies. But today we expect only that one section of appointed professionals to deliver.

There are even discussions about how understaffed our Police is and the proposal for posting guards along streets to ‘make our streets safer’. Or how the cameras installed for the same purposes are not maintained or serviced. These are nothing but knee jerk responses that treat only the symptom of a carcinogenic malaise. It is our isolated urban lifestyles, apathy to our social context and denial of our individual responsibilities that is creating the collective breakdown (refer Jacobian theories of 1970s).

It is the abrogation of our security obligations as individuals, as social components and as urban constituents that is the bane of our problems in India.

The ills of the boundary wall are usually argued in all urban design narratives and yet the gravity of the problem becomes humungous when all the individual components add up to the whole. Yet, this is only one of the many simplistic reasons for the urban security challenges today. Isolated and introverted urban living, anonymity and lack of sense of belonging, add up to a total city of millions of individuals instead of communities.

Surprisingly there is a lot in Delhi that actually works in its favours. The original models of city planning, the mixed land-use model and vestiges of homogeneity are all favourable aspects. Government initiatives like the Neighbourhood watch scheme, instituted to tackle Terror have been very successful in negating the dilutions in homogeneity by urban immigrations and sprawl. It is infact a great example of community policing and second generation CPTED.

Even today the trickle of efforts towards gender sensitization and reclamation of public spaces like the experiments in Karol Bagh (see newspaper cutting above) are all heartening steps. While these are intermittent and sporadic, they are welcome nevertheless. Every stakeholder be it the judicial system, the police, the social engineers or the economists, everyone has to contribute. What is new to India however is the role that design and designers need to play.

Across the world the CPTED movement is dominated by planners, urban designers and architects. Its about time the profession steps up here in India too and about time all the stakeholders realise the value of collaboration. It is time to unite all these efforts, take the bull by the horns and weed out the problem in a concerted and comprehensive manner. A little collaboration, some deliberations and simple experimentation is all that stands between a fearsome today and a secure tomorrow.

Its about time we start taking responsibility for the situation and start dealing with it.
Its about time we stop cribbing and blaming. About time we start doing our bit.
About time, we became ‘smart’ about security.

TheAssociation for Building Security, India’ is a registered not for profit society working towards secure buildings today……..  and building a secure tomorrowby integrated approach in design and security.