Richard Rogers: Architect of The New Authoritarianism

July 23rd, 2007

He knew about it from the beginning:

I am not sure if this is still the case, but certainly a year or two ago among the plans for the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow was an elaborate and supremely high-tech tracking system for passengers.

The architect from the Richard Rogers partnership told me about it with a gleam in his eye. It was difficult not to feel caught up in his enthusiasm. It worked like this: the terminal, a highly evolved amalgam of building, computer and machine, would know about you before you arrived.

When you had bought your ticket, an image taken from your passport would already have entered its systems. As you arrived, flustered and anxious in the way only airports can make you, Terminal 5 would look at you through its myriad cameras, compare your face with the large number of faces on its database, measure and recognise you – the word “biometric” was not yet common currency at the time – and then, even through the fluster, know you for who you were.

[…]

The Telegraph – from 2003

What follows is a good article of the type we have all read many times.

What this article, sent to me by email, proves, is that Richard Rogers knew from the beginning that dehumanizing fingerprinting and photographing tools were to be used to corral passengers at Terminal 5. That firm was not only complicit in this shameful place, but enthusiastic about it.

Instead of using the design of the building to segregate passengers and do the work of keeping immigration rules in place, they deliberately broke the design of the building to facilitate an experiment in managing crowds through Orwellian identity documents.

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer immediately comes to mind; an architect whose work served to promote and enshrine the bad guys of his time. Now Richard Rogers can be classed with him; this Terminal was designed to promote boost and brainwash the people who pass through it into accepting the police state system of ID cards, universal surveillance and everything decent people loathe.

This building might not be destroyed as some of Germany’s buildings were after the war. They might however have their design flaws fixed by refurbishing so that the building does what it is meant to do, as all other airports have done very successfully, without violating the very people they are meant to serve.

This article says:

Five’s beautiful alertness and responsiveness will transform the experience of an airport, or so the liberal, civilised, imaginative architect maintained, from a horrible, authoritarian, mass experience into something subtler, gentler, more individual and more pleasant.

This is, of course, doubletalk.

What it actually means is this:

“The vile ever-present eye of complete surveillance will transform the experience of an airport, as designed by the illiberal, uncivilized and unimaginative architects Richard Rogers. What they are planning is horrible, authoritarian mass humiliation and subjugation that obvious and brutal in its reduction of the individual into mere numbered cattle. Very unpleasant.”

When people like Richard Rogers, who really should know better, actively design to encourage and foster authoritarian systems it makes it hard to explain to the ‘the busy people’ why these systems are so wrong. They cannot separate the private from the public, the voluntary from the compulsory; they see only the surface, and as it looks the same, they accept both as being equal when they are not.

What is so wrong about this is that there is a better way to control passenger flow, and this layer of Security Theatre is superfluous and unnecessary; it is inefficient, onerous, pointless and frankly, evil.

There is nothing worse than an arrogant architect. I do not like to use the word ‘arrogant’, and very rarely employ it, but in this case it is completely appropriate.

This man is deliberately using human beings as part of an experiment, and he has put himself and his ideas above the rights and dignity of of the people who his buildings should be protecting and serving.

It is very rare that a building is designed to violate and humiliate the people who use it, and that this is being done in a context where millions will be systematically violated puts Richard Rogers up there with some of history’s worst ‘professionals who misused their art’.

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7 Responses to “Richard Rogers: Architect of The New Authoritarianism”

  1. irdial Says:

    In case you didn’t know, fingerprint can be spoofed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E20lHqbWqN4&NR=1

    And even if it worked 100%, that doesn’t make it RIGHT.

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