Service or domination : designing a police station for Albert Park.
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The South African Police Service is struggling to redefine itself as a public protection service as opposed to the instrument of public-control that it was in the past when it was still the SAP (South African Police). I believe that there is an ever-growing need for public protection facilities and that the design of these facilities is still not being prioritised. This has been demonstrated by many reports in the media concerning the severe lack of resources available to the South African Police Services and the inadequacy of those they are given. This is true also of the buildings they operate from. The transition, if indeed it has happened, of the pre-1994 paramilitary styled SAP, to an all-encompassing community protection Service, is thus a crucial issue if architects hope to successfully respond to the need for facilities that enforce safety and security. In architectural terms, consequently, one should question whether a police station in South Africa is easily identified as such, and what in-fact constitutes a successful policing building. It is intended to address this issue through the main question: what is an appropriate architectural response for designing a police station in Albert Park, Durban? In the past, police stations have been designed as fortresses and are therefore easily identifiable. It should be questioned whether this is the case currently, whether the domineering, fortress, imagery of the past is suitable for such stations now. Indications are that many stations built recently are not 'typologically' identifiable and not really designed with a perceived new identity in mind. Many of the older stations are now functionally inadequate because they are not designed for an SAPS that is now still struggling to adopt a community-embracing appearance and strategy. It is thus fit to question what a police station is, and question its development and origins in the local and international context. Ultimately it is intended to discern what is appropriate to contemporary South Africa. Perhaps it is possible to smooth out the earlier processes of the criminal-justice system through architectural intervention. The effectiveness of the police force can be improved in letting it operate from better facilities, providing buildings that convey to the public that the police are there to enforce safety and, yet, operate with the interests of the general public at heart. It is also of primary importance that the building proves adequate for the police to operate in, and from, while simultaneously ensuring humane conditions for the detainees awaiting hearings. Architectural intervention into this field can thus also positively adjust society's perceptions of such facilities further assisting the Criminal-Justice System. The hypothesis is therefore that in order to design a successful Police Station, in South Africa, it must include public facilities that are easily accessible to the public, but it conversely still needs to have certain of its functions secure, expressing these as such. The building must therefore strike a balance between the overt and covert modes of operation.