Lately we’ve seen the idea of pop-up architecture spread to businesses, books, and plenty of buildings. But perhaps the best use for rapidly-deployable structures is in disaster zones and on the battlefield. The Marine Corps in Afghanistan will soon start deploying McCurdy’s Armor, a new, snap-together wall system for troops in the field. The Marines recently bought 14 sets from New Jersey-based manufacturer Dynamic Defense Materials for a total cost of $797,400.
Most of the 700 US and allied bases in Afghanistan are simple, just piles of the standard hesco barriers (right)–collapsible metal baskets filled with dirt. They’re light, but don’t offer much protection and take a while to set up (you need a front-end loader).
McCurdy’s Armor (named after Ryan S. McCurdy, a Marine killed in Iraq in 2006) comes as a set of 6.5-foot-tall wall panels that troops can set up in under an hour. They’re heavy (they have to be carted to the site on a truck), but they’re mortar-, RPG-, and bullet-proof. The key advantage, though, is a ballistic window that lets troops use the walls like a giant riot shield–that is, as part of an offensive strategy, protecting advancing troops and offering safe firing positions. Hesco barriers stay put once they’re filled up and are, of course, hard to see through. Plus, they lack that all-important Transformers-esque cool factor. Pop-up architecture is usually just a gimmick that lets critics wax theoretical about “architecture as performance,” so it’s a nice change to see the concept deployed in a useful way.