Protection-Inherent Architecture

Protection-Inherent Architecture

Look - it?s raining!... Open up the umbrella!... Sorry, it?s at home?Why didn?t you bring it?... I didn?t know it was going to rain?Why does everything always catch you by surprise?...But what?s the problem, put this cardboard over your head, at least till we get home?Are you crazy? That?ll ruin my coiffure! It cost me a fortune and I am not going to let your stupidity ruin it!!!...Darling the rain is already becoming a flood and the umbrella at home won?t help us?why don?t you cover your head with the cardboard?

Building protection in settlements around Gaza is quite reminiscent of the real-life spate of the couple caught in the rain without an umbrella. When the ?rain? of Qassam missiles crossed the stage of denial, the Israeli government decided to protect all the education buildings in the settlements in the western Negev. In view of the circumstances, the relevant question was how to do this quickly and efficiently. With eminent danger to the lives of children concentrated in large groups for long hours - there is no significance attached to the ?coiffure?.

Developed by the home-front command, the concept of building protection was based on the assumption that less than 15 seconds were needed to reach a protected space from the classrooms. This concept led to the planning of common protected spaces for a number of classes, so the students and teachers could reach it in the brief time allotted by the alarm. In the kindergartens, however, the protection was spread over the classes themselves - usually by reinforced-concrete bridge- like roofing. Although not architecturally esthetic, such solutions have provided the children with comprehensive protection without their having to leave the classes.

At this stage, the technical solutions were based on two main alternatives: one used prefab reinforced- concrete elements; the second - metal shielding. Both solutions were related to the limited implementation time dictated by the home-front command - namely, the summer vacation - with most of the devices manufactured in the plant, thereby relatively reducing construction on site.

It?s important to note, however, that although implemented in ?real time? under constant bombardment, both solutions proved their worth to most of the education institutes in the area of fire.

Once this was achieved, the government decided to broaden the scope and reinforce all the classrooms themselves, in order to provide not only emergency protection, but also the possibility of conducting a reasonable daily life within the institutionalized threat routine. The accumulated experience made it possible to draw conclusions as to the nature of the threat and the solutions required in response. On this basis, attempts were made to develop new methods of protection, among other reasons to provide higher esthetic and environmental solutions.

The programme for protection-inherent building is based on a cohesive combination of three main parameters: the doctrine of building protection, the technical solutions, and the time dimension. Within this framework, three main danger factors were defined: the damages of direct explosion, the spreading shrapnel, and the blast. As it is often the case that existing buildings are the ones to be protected, the type of building and its physical condition must also be taken into account.

The key terms in building protection are direction of threat and angle of fall. Since the path of the rockets and mortar fired from Gaza to the Negev settlements is steep, the basic defense against them has to be horizontal, with a planned incline of roofs toward the expected source of fire. This angle changes according to the range of attack, and the location of the site relative to the source of fire.

Direction and angle of the threat also determine the protection of the vertical elements - walls, openings and open areas between the buildings. Hence, there is a categorical distinction between walls turning to the source of fire and back-situated walls where the danger of direct hit does not exist. Consequently, these factors actually determine the nature of the protection of walls and the devices applied to the openings.

Although the obvious danger comes from a direct explosion, the protection planning also takes into account the secondary damages, as they may often be lethal. While the impact of destruction weakens in accordance with the distance from the center of the hit, the radius does, however, extend up to a certain point, as is the case with sound waves. As a result, the phenomenon of the blast is an important factor in the overall planning protection, especially with regard to concentrations of students. The damage caused by windows shattered in all directions, or fragments of concrete dislodged from the building, constitutes a real threat.

An important factor influencing the protection policy is time - a factor distinguishing very clearly between various areas of confrontation. So for example, while missiles fell in the last war in areas relatively distanced such as Beer Sheva and Yavneh, the danger of the routine of life being frozen there was relatively small, since the time required to reach a sheltered space is relatively longer.

The factor of time has an impact on architecture as well. The longer the time at the disposal of the planner, the less the improvisations needed. Actually, the history of Israeli architecture can be based solely on the chronicles of the means of protection. Without expounding too highly on the subject, one may note the brick-walls hurriedly constructed in the War of Independence to protect the stairwells in shelterless buildings; the public shelters built from the 60s on; the private shelters introduced into homes from the 70s on, legitimizing the building of basements; the home-protected space which has replaced the basement shelters since the first Gulf War, becoming an integral room in every home since; and the protected buildings now changing the face of the built landscape in the confrontation settlements of the south.

Here one may inquire whether the impact of building protection on architecture, even when made under danger, may be construed as an architectural shortcoming. If we return to the example of the white brick-walls that became in time an identified component of the International Style (mainly in Tel Aviv), the devil may sometimes turn out to be an angel. Assuming that functional needs may be expressed in the building's form, then protection too may be considered a legitimate element - similar to shading devices, roofs protecting against rain and walls against winds.

In this context, one may raise the psychological issue of ?protection-assimilated architecture?. So, for example, in cases where the protection of the building is applied on the inner envelope of the building - among other reasons to prevent spraying of building fragments toward the inner space - the technical solution might carry a threatening presence. The question this solution raises for the decision-makers is whether it is preferable to leave the protection layer exposed, or to cover it with light partitions.

In the first case, the students are aware of the presence of the protection at times of emergency, but may be under pressure during the interim periods as well; in the second case - covering the protection may reduce the sense of security during fire, but alleviate the pressure during ceasefire, allowing the students to lead a reasonable routine.

In light of the experience acquired in the various stages of building protection - the ?spontaneous? stage and the following planned one - one may conclude that assimilation of protection solutions at the planning stage may yield added architectural and environmental value - such as shading, connecting old to new, and significant addition of space for leisure. As has already been shown, functional necessity can yield a legitimate ?protection-inherent? language for the expression of the new factors, in public buildings as well as residential ones.

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