42: Run for Cover! S/S 2016


Like all animals, humans are programmed for survival. Fight or flight? Duck! Run for cover! Our reflex, when we register fear, is to protect ourselves. Architecture’s answer, “shelter,” is said to derive from sheltron, or “shield” + “troop”; phalanx.

But what shields or defends can intimidate, exclude, and punish. Architecture is not just refuge, but target and weapon; buildings entrap, collapse, explode, segregate.

This issue of Harvard Design Magazine explores how fear—of assault, of nature, of power, of the Other—shapes our physical world, and how the built environment provokes, prevents, or palliates fear.

Today, we move about our cities and spaces warily, attuned to threats of violence, disease, economic crash. Sensations of dread, awe, vulnerability—both perceived and real—are mirrored and magnified by the people, objects, and media that surround us. In panic, we run toward and away from the structures and landscapes that figure in our fears; we succumb to lockdowns; we migrate, seeking safer worlds. All the while, we blind ourselves to the regimes of control enacted in the name of safety which ultimately encroach on our civil liberties.

Our instinctive urge to hide under tables might save us when faced with a shooter, a bomb, or an earthquake, but more abstract threats ask our minds, not just our adrenaline, to intervene. Can we think our way out of fear? Design our way through dread?

As the makers and inhabitants of this militarized “age of terror,” we reach for our “shields” automatically, often avoiding the deeper sources of fear. “Run for Cover!” suggests that maybe designers need to unlearn the shelter reflex. Fear can be a motivator for progress—not for walling in or walling out, but for imagining, configuring, and instrumentalizing spaces that foster coexistence, cooperation, and trust.

Table of Contents

Editors' Letter

Dreadful Design

Jennifer Sigler


Fear Ebbs on the Skyline but Rises on the Ground

Blair Kamin

Fear, Faith, and Disaster Preparedness

Arif Khan


Reginald Dwayne Betts

Nuclear Pillowcases

Andrew Wasserman

Pastiche of Ghosts


The Iconic Ghetto and the Stigma of Blackness

Elijah Anderson


Krzysztof Wodiczko

Unsettling Unsettlements

Marianne F. Potvin

Wide Open

Nancy Etcoff


A State of Emergency

Léopold Lambert

Anthropocenophobia: The Stone Falls on the City

Renata Tyszczuk

Artifacts of Exclusion

Interboro Partners

Bringing Back the Front: Relieving the Great War

Justin Fowler

Building for the Total Breakdown

Jacob Lillemose

Fear, Fire, and Forty-One Snakes: Notes on the Burning Theater

Thomas A. P. Van Leeuwen

Fearful Asymmetry: Insurgency and the Architectures of Terror

Joshua Comaroff

Fortress London: The New US Embassy and the Rise of Counter-Terror Urbanism

Oliver Wainwright

Get Me Out of Here: The Solemn Geography of Women in Horror Film

Caryn Coleman

Gimme Shelter: Refugee Architecture in Germany

Niklas Maak

Phobia and the City: Rome

Lars Lerup

Robert Smithson, Evel Knievel, and the Landscape of Reclamation

Edward Eigen

Suspunk: Thinking with Suspicious Packages

Bryan Finoki, Javier Arbona, Nick Sowers

The Fall of Postmodernism and the New Empowerment

Michael Murphy

The Green Zone: Architectures of Precarious Politics

Amin Alsaden

The House of One: Facing Fear

Lara Schrijver


A Certain Darkness

Demdike Stare, Robert Gerard Pietrusko

How to Draw Medellín

Alejandro Echeverri, Alejandro Valdivieso

The Real Move

Chelsea Spencer, Elizabeth Streb


A Toxic Patrimony

Dan Borelli

Ambiguous Thresholds

Nuttinee Karnchanaporn

Conflict Urbanism, Aleppo

Laura Kurgan

Die Noctuque

Enrique Ramirez

Feared Spaces, Feared Bodies

Toni L. Griffin

Feeling Invaded

John Kuo Wei Tchen

Holding Fear

Sonja Dümpelmann

Home Safe

Geoff Manaugh

Mortal Cities

Arna Mačkić

Reading Jane Jacobs in the Era of #BlackLivesMatter

Stuart Schrader

Second Nature

Ralph Ghoche

Solitary in Solidarity

Daniel D’Oca

The Horror, the Horror

Bart Lootsma

Who’s Afraid of the Covered Face?

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi


Animal Eyes & Invisible Hunters

Eugénie Shinkle

Fear Is in the Detail

Francesca Hughes, Gergely Kovács


Editor in Chief
Jennifer Sigler

Deputy Editor
Leah Whitman-Salkin

Publications Coordinator
Meghan Ryan Sandberg

Creative Direction & Design
Jiminie Ha, Fahad Al–Hunaif
With Projects, Inc.

Editorial Support
Claire Barliant, David Huber

Krista Sykes

Die Keure, Belgium