A Landscape of Security

This studio will explore the idea of the landscape as a means of security. Throughout history gardens or estates have been created as places to awe as well as to protect. The gardens of the Italian Renaissance, the formal gardens of France or the grand English Estates were all created as places of landscape spectacle and protection. All these gardens were created for various means: some to understand one’s place in the cosmos, some to enjoy the frivolity of social interaction or demonstrate a particular political prowess however, all were about making a provocative landscape that is not only beautiful but highly defensible. This studio will begin by defining what experiential intensity these landscapes possess. By intensity, I mean an intensity of experience and perception. The aspects of the site are made more vivid or enhanced by the program and vice a versa.

Site and programmatic research can reveal contradictory, seemingly irresolvable, tensions. I am interested in design strategies that expose, rather than resolve, these points of abrasion. Program and site are in dialogue, creating a vibrant tension between them. The point where they spatially or materially meet is the most vivid articulation. The studio will investigate the notion of a landscape of security by balancing or creating the desired tension between the landscape, the program; its expression and ability to protect.

The Problem
Create a facility that would consolidate the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security training center. The mission of Diplomatic Security is “to provide a safe secure environment for the conduct of US foreign policy.” This state of the art training facility will consolidate existing geographically separated training functions into a single location to improve training efficiency and operations. This head quarters will be a place that every person associated with the diplomatic Foreign Service will visit for training purposes including the presidential appointed chief of state. The facility will be located on a 1500 acre site in Nottoway County, Virginia near the town of Blackstone.

The Program
This state of the art facility will train between 8000-10,000 students every year. The facility will include hard skill training such as driving tracks, firing ranges, mock urban environments along with soft skill training such as classrooms, simulation labs, a fitness center as well as support facilities including administrative offices, residential facilities, a dining hall, secured arrival access parking. The program is very much like creating a new college campus for a very specific type of student within a very complicated landscape.

The studio will use a series of techniques to explore the notion of a secure landscape. A benchmarking and intense programming exercise will begin the exploration by evaluating both historical and contemporary landscape projects that have dealt directly with the issue. A series of readings and discussion of the topic will be assigned throughout the semester. Exploration in both graphic and physical model making will be the conventions used to arrive at the final design solution. A document will be published that outlines the methods and all the final design solutions.