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SOM's Bulletproof Bronx Bunker Proves 911 is Not a Joke

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[Renderings via Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.]

We've seen architects struggle before with the task of designing a glorified bunker that's pleasing to the eye, and with that in mind, get a load of SOM's plan for the new 911 call center in the Morris Park section of the Bronx. The heavily delayed and downsized fortress was commissioned by the city's Department of Design and Construction to upgrade emergency services in the wake of Sept. 11. The project goes by the catchy name Public Safety Answering Center II on the SOM website, which says completion of the building is set for 2013. As confused as we are? Wait until you hear about the vegetated walls!

The Archpaper gets deep into the psychology of the design:

In designing the second call center, SOM was faced with the challenge of imbuing the 550,000-square-foot building with humanity and urban sensitivity, a tall order considering the large footprint necessitated by the call floor and the minimal windows dictated by security concerns. To diminish the structure’s mammoth appearance, the designers set the plan at a 45-degree angle to the Hutchinson Parkway and serrated the facade to add dynamism to what otherwise would have been a blank monolith.

The serrations of the skin—a rainscreen system composed of 10-foot, powder-coated aluminum panels—are silver on one side and charcoal gray on the other, giving the building a different aspect depending on one’s viewpoint. The aluminum panels wrap a more robust blast-resistant wall, and all of the building’s windows are made of ballistic glass.

Due to the stressful nature of the call-takers’ job, the designers did all they could to create as pleasant an environment within the center as possible. Part of this involved creating rest areas where staff can collect themselves and recoup. The most adventurous gesture, however, was to bring green walls into the lobby, the largest public space in the building. More than just vertical topiaries, these vegetated walls are tied into the facility’s mechanical systems.

We're calling it: The hot building trends of 2010 are aluminum rain scrims and bulletproof glass. And instead of a concierge, maybe a missile defense system?
· The Answer [Archpaper]
· Public Safety Answering Center II [SOM]

Waters Place at Fink Avenue, Bronx, New York