Can Design Act as Gun Control?

With the United States Senate opening up the debate on legislation for increased gun control, we felt it was time to revisit a question we've asked ourselves in the past: what can design do to prevent gun violence?

Read more about the recent debate about the potential of design for gun violence, after the break...

A recent article, written by Chris Sullivan for Smart Planet, excellently summarizes three potential approaches to designing with gun safety in mind: (1) Fortify and exclude - design citadel-like enclaves with strengthened walls, preferably in gated communities; (2) Improve interior visibility - rather than barring windows, make it easier to see and monitor entering visitors (3) Memorialize - design with "symbols of awareness" that remind users of the tragedy of gun violence.

In explaining the third approach, Sullivan quotes Thomas de Monchaux's article in The New Yorker: “Shootings, events defined by immediate sightlines and ballistic trajectories, are an especially spatial and architectural kind of violence. The architectural task in the long aftermath of such shootings is not only to repair structural damage but to calibrate a balance between remembering and forgetting sufficient for daily life to continue nearby — and to figure out how the shapes, materials, and details of buildings can participate in that calibration.”

It's a fascinating point, one that I myself tackled in my editorial "Post-Traumatic Design," in which I discuss how, in designing schools, architects must balance the need to memorialize past violence while still providing for the needs of present students (and thus potentially preventing future violence). I suggest that "architects should design schools with security measures in mind – not by creating prison-like facilities, but by designing schools that reduce student stress, help heal trauma, and become centers for community engagement, thus helping to reduce the conditions that result in violence."

Do you think design can have a role to play in preventing violence? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 

About this author
Cite: Vanessa Quirk. "Can Design Act as Gun Control?" 15 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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