Reading about yesterday's 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, I was reminded of the design challenge that Chicago architect Carol Ross Barney faced a few years ago. Her job was creating a new federal building to replace the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that Timothy McVeigh destroyed with a truck bomb. The new structure had to be blast-resistant, yet avoid the imposing look of a fortress. It's a public building after all. "People have made this a symbol in their lives," she told FC. "I want it to look brave. I want it to look open and clean. I want it to have clarity. If you move forward from a terrible event, you need to have a path with some clarity."
The new federal building, ranked by one architecture magazine as the fourth safest building in the world, is designed with shatterproof glass and extra-thick stone walls in the lobby to contain an explosion and limit damage to the rest of the structure. The landscaping and concrete bollards prevent vehicles from getting anywhere as close as McVeigh's deadly rental truck did. The site where the Murrah building once stood has been transformed into the moving Oklahoma City National Memorial. Barney's robust yet elegant building is a block away, an everyday workplace and a monument of a different kind, to renewal and resilience.