The Many Illusions of Security


“I am tired of learning from my own mistakes.”

-Andrew Bayley, 01.2012

This week is a double. Its about an irresponsible architecture student as much as it is about irresponsible architecture. And then its really about irresponsible use of architecture…

I had my laptop and digital slr camera stolen from studio over the weekend. And it was my birthday too. It happens. They warn us about it. We see it happen to other people. But it doesn’t happen to us, right?

Crown Hall's western half. Or maybe its the eastern half. Hard to tell.

So Crown Hall has cameras on 60’ centers, no walls, and nowhere to hide. Security in there is something akin to what Jeremy Bentham created with his Panopticon, everyone just assumes that they are being watched. But immersion in an environment like Crown, with hundreds of desks under one famous roof, can instill in one an immunity to the exposure. I have seen colleagues of mine spending time cleaning out nostrils with fingers, and worse. Laptops have gone missing from this environment too. So much for the illusion of security through observation.

I graduated to the studios of 3410, just south of Crown Hall, for the Masters project cycle this past fall semester and instantly felt comforted by the doors and walls and the lockable Knoll drawers we all had holding up one end of our desks. And when I found a comfortable spot there was a key sticking out of the keyhole that worked perfectly. As it turns out, I happened to sit at the only one of 60 desks that had one of these keys. Lucky me, because this allowed me to secure valuable things (laptop, dslr) right where I sat, saving me from the 50 foot trudge down the hall to my locker. But then the semester goes from fall to spring, we all change desks, and I no longer have this magical key of security.

My "office" and the scene of the crime

fast forward to last Saturday…

I get into studio around 1, after brunch with friends, to discover my expensive stuff missing. Why did I not walk the fifty feet down the hall? Out of complacency instilled over four months of cocoon-like isolation in our second floor studio. Why don’t the students have keys for the furniture with which they are supplied? As far as I have been able to ascertain, and my source is trustworthy, if vague, they left the institution with a faculty member, and are now in Malaysia, not able to secure anything at all.

The lonely, pitiful, useless keyhole

So, I am ultimately responsible for my belongings, and I feel like jackass because I allowed my stuff to be taken. That being said, the university has a responsibility to its tuition paying students to provide functioning furniture, and a locking file cabinet loses most of its function if it cannot be locked.


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