Photo: Christopher Russell

Designing for Security offers a conceptual framework and practical guide to promote the use of design as a method to facilitate enhanced security in public spaces and infrastructure. The project supports that by incorporating safety concerns into the creative process, so that aesthetically-pleasing security elements, buildings, and spaces can become more inviting, contribute to neighborhood vitality, and amplify the sense of security and level of comfort for the public. 


The Designing for Security guidelines and case studies of successful walls, garages, gates, doors, guard booths, fences and turnstiles became increasingly relevant after September 11th and have served as a substantive resource for more recent publications related to designing for security, such as Barbara Nadel’s Building Security: Handbook for Architectural Planning and Design.

The criteria outlined in our guidelines also continue to inform city agency projects and have held a particularly influential role in the Percent for Art program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and the Arts for Transit program of the Metropolitan Transit Authority


Over the last decade, the Art Commission (now called the Public Design Commission) has witnessed a general hardening of the public realm (most egregiously, through the proliferation of prison-like design "add-ons") which compromises the aesthetic quality of our public spaces and contributes to an atmosphere of uneasiness. Using its position as public advocate for quality design and its City-wide scope, the Art Commission has a unique ability to respond to the negative impact that the ever-expanding security measures have on the quality of New York City's public spaces.


Design Trust Fellow Elizabeth Kennedy led the Commission in a year-long educational process, including extensive research, participatory workshops, and interviews that resulted in the publication of an illustrated set of design guidelines, Designing for Security, in Summer 2002. Written by Design Trust Fellow James Russell, these guidelines continue to help the Art Commission advocate for change in the way security concerns are addressed in the design of public architecture.

The Design Trust also sponsored a separate photographic survey by Elizabeth Felicella  called "Uneasy Spaces," which documents the actual effect of security measures on public spaces throughout New York City. Ms. Felicella's images were published separately and also are included as a chapter of the project publication. 

Lead Sponsor

Additional Support

Project Supporters


  • J.M. Kaplan Fund