Birmingham is cutting down 25 old trees and it should have been the biggest story of the week
Terror is the new architecture.
At first it seems an inconsequential story, 25 old trees are being cut down in Birmingham city this month. But what, you ask, is so significant about the surgery other than the obvious upset to dendrochronologists. Those tree fanatics who could take issue that a century old beauty is being axed?
The local council has already said they will plant more than twice as many trees to make up for the loss. So all is well and the dendrochronologists will soon mend their wooden hearts?
Well, that may have been the case if the trees were being cut down to make way for a Metro tram extension as Birmingham residents initially believed. But that is not why the the trees are being removed. The trees are going because Britain is terrified.
The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is SEVERE, according to M15's terror gauge and the implications of this are becoming more physically apparent throughout the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.
In the place of these trees, which frame Birmingham's Centenary Square, there will be concrete. Big blocks of concrete barely disguised as benches.
These are intended as literal blocks to terrorists, deterrents to make driving a truck through crowds gathered in the square for the winter ice-rink or celebrating holidays, more difficult.
That the UK is taking architectural measures to prevent the kind of terrorist attacks that have been pounding Europe is not a negative, it seems obvious. Why risk the potential for an attack similar to the Berlin Christmas markets which killed 12 people or the Bastille day attack last July where 434 people were injured and 86 killed after a truck drove into the celebrating crowds.
Why take the risk? When you can build anti-terror benches?
This is not a new concept. Since the 1990s Britain has been redesigning its cities to limit the damage of terror attacks. Large works of art are often features of big open spaces, as they too function to slow down the passage of a ploughing, people-killing lorry.
Buildings in London, like the landmark Gherkin, are re-enforced and engineered to create minimal carnage should they come under attack.
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But the rapid intensity with which European cities are being physically altered as a result of consistent, yet unpredictable terrorist attacks has never been so obvious. This is happening despite the efforts of social commentators and liberal politicians encouraging compassion and empathy, asking people to unite with hope and love and not surrender to the binds of fear that are so easily extended by the Islamic State,
If cities were being built now, would they be designed with terror in mind? Would there ever be wide open spaces for congregating? Or would city planners future-proof our urban centres against the attacks that have become a horrific kind of normal?
The trees are symptomatic of a terror that is stopping people from travelling to mainland Europe. Anecdotal evidence suggests Irish people have veered away from travelling to France for pleasure and the threat of terrorist attacks are beginning to tangibly influence how we act, where we go and what the cities of Europe look like.
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