Architecture in the era of terror: Design and perception of security in two societies



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation falls in the realm of environmental behavior and focuses on the role of the built environment in influencing responses to threats to personal security associated with terrorism. The research integrates pertinent knowledge from psychology, architecture and security/terrorism into a cohesive conceptual framework. Based on the conceptual framework, this work examined the effects of levels of terrorism threat (high vs. low) on people who face public buildings (city hall or shopping mall) that vary in their facade and entrance designs (solid exterior vs. glass facade with/without designed vs. temporary access control security measures). The research was conducted in two societies that are different in their experience with terrorism (Israel and Texas). The effects were measured along four dimensions: how much the issue of terrorism threat is on a person?s mind, how safe and how anxious the individual feels, and how likely he/she is to use the building. The investigation consisted of three quasi-experiments and a pretest survey and employed a computer-based web driven platform. A total of 1071 undergraduate students from College Station, Texas and Tel Aviv, Israel participated in these studies. The results illustrate the predominance of the levels of threat of terrorism in influencing all the examined security-related responses. The characteristics of buildings affected those responses to some extent. Differences between the two societies were found mainly in relation to the building-uses. Participants of the two societies responded similarly to the design elements of buildings. In conditions of low threat of terrorism participants from both societies had a higher sense of security when they were exposed to a glass facade compared to a solid concrete facade. In high terrorism threat, participants from both societies felt safer, and were more inclined to use a building with a solid facade. However, when access control security measures were visible to participants in the approach to the building (regardless of their design), both facade designs elicited a similar sense of security, while the propensity to enter the building was higher towards a glass facade. The study concludes with a discussion of the implications of the results for architectural design.