With its grenade-proof BMWs, chemical armageddon combat suits and terrorist-resistant flowerbeds, this trade show is a playground for extreme urban neuroses

Since terrorism has become one of the guiding forces in urban design, the incorporation of immense fortifications into everyday streets has spawned an entire industry of defensive architecture, complete with battalions of protective street furniture. It is a phenomenon that attempts to marry the desire of counter-terrorism agencies to erect enormous razor-wire-topped concrete walls around everything with the need for life to go on as usual. ... The latest developments in this rising tide of urban paranoia are on display this week at the Counter Terror Expo in west London’s Olympia, a sprawling trade show that proudly claims to showcase “the key terror threat areas under one roof”. It is an enormous supermarket of neuroses, the rhetoric of threat and fear monetised into innumerable services and gadgets.


And then there are the fences. Lots of enormous fences, available with various “toppings”, from electrified wires to sensor detection systems and good old lacerating razor wire. They’re marshalled together with the defensive street furniture, and all these bulky chunks of infrastructure look a bit forlorn compared to the robots and invisible cyber-threat fighters being showcased elsewhere.