The Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter

The Barricades of the Federal District


1123A NEW EXHIBIT OF PHOTOGRAPHS is on display at the Center’s Los Angeles exhibit hall, featuring images of the barricades that now flank and encircle the monuments, museums, government buildings, and other landmarks of the nation’s capitol. The images, drawn from the CLUI Photographic Archive, are all recent, taken mostly in late February of 2002.

The most public parts of the city are completely transformed by the security measures put in place after September 11th, which include miles of highway barricades, heavy planters, steel fencing, and concrete pipe sections, like those ringing the east side of the Capitol building. “The notion of a city that expresses the openness of a publicly accessible government is severely challenged by the defensive measures now in place,” said Sarah Simons of the CLUI, just returned from a recent visit to the capitol. “And those guys everywhere sitting in idling official minivans and Ford Excursions all day, watching, makes a visitor feel more and less secure simultaneously.”

The barricades take many forms, but the most prevalent are the concrete sections known as Jersey barrier, which were originally designed for use on highways. Around the Mall, these eight foot long, free-standing impact deflectors are installed in such quantity as to become an almost continuous, defensive dashed line, allowing people through, but keeping errant vehicles from being able to, for example, drive up the steps into the Air and Space Museum. These measures are in place indefinitely, according to officials, but are likely to change into a more “architecturally harmonious” form, as they become permanent fixtures in the plazas and porticos of public space. ♦