Security Trumps Design at U.S. Port of Entry

By Matthew Harwood

Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) decision to tear down a huge sign welcoming travelers into the United States from Canada is more evidence that when security and design face each other down in post-9-11 America, security wins, reports The New York Times.

Four years ago, the General Services Administration unveiled a new design for a new bordering crossing station at the Massena, New York, port of entry  that met with near universal applause. What really generated enthusiasm was the crossing station's main building, which was stamped with 21-foot high, bright yellow letters spelling out "United States."

Last year, the design was approved by CBP, a member organization of the Department of Homeland Security. Nevertheless, less than a month after the border station opened, the letters are coming down for fear it will make an attractive target for terrorists.

As Kelly Ivahnenko, a CBP spokeswoman, told the Times, anything that could put the lives of border officers in danger is an unacceptable risk.

According to the Times:

The move is a depressing, if not wholly unpredictable, example of how the lingering trauma of 9/11 can make it difficult for government bureaucracies to make rational decisions. It reflects a tendency to focus on worst-case scenarios to the exclusion of common sense, as well as a fundamental misreading of the sign and the message it conveys. And if it is carried out as planned, it will gut a design whose playful pop aesthetic is an inspired expression of what America is about.

Just as disheartening, it underscores how the desire for security continues to override the spirit of openness that is fundamental to a functioning democracy.


Photo of sign leading up to Massena port of entry by jimmywayne/Flickr


View Recent News (by day)


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.