Imagining a drone-proof city: an architectural proposal

Sepoy at Chapati Mystery blog proposes an architecture for a drone-proof city in the Middle East:
The idea for my final project, an architectural defense against drone warfare, came from the realization that law had no response to drone warfare. My own understanding of the ongoing [War on Terror pseudonym] as a civil rights issue is irrelevant, we only learn civil rights as a historical happening, not a current struggle. But architecture has a proud anti-legal tradition. Architecture is a way to protect people when law chooses not to. Drones work by detecting patterns, identifying individuals, and extracting data. I dreamed up Shura City (named in honor of Farah Jan’s photoessay on Quetta) to fight against drones with humanity and community. The city is a “black box” impenetrable to data miners and military-trained individuals but it is not a prison. It is instead a gated community, providing its society with sunshine and safety from the scary world outside.
More, with image and diagrams, here ( via Aaron Stewart-Ahn).


  1. “But architecture has a proud anti-legal tradition. Architecture is a way to protect people when law chooses not to…”

    Like all great vague, sweeping statements, I’d enjoy reading Sopay’s more expansive ideas on this subject of law and architecture – I immediately thought of such anti-protective pieces of architecture as the many WWII-era Nazi prison camp buildings and also the archipelago death camps of Iron Curtain Russia, US State Prisons (and other prisons worldwide) the thousands of buildings nationwide where the elderly, sick and dying are housed. To say that architecture (architecture!) has a proud anti-legal tradition is just silly. Buildings are buildings. It’s the people inside them that create the tradition. That fella Abe Lincoln grew up in a run down log cabin, right?

    Sopay’s drawings and layouts look interesting, wish there were bigger versions to link to.

    1. The idea seems to be reliant on the thought that indescriminancy would be unacceptable in UAV strikes. That if they can’t accurately pinpoint a target, they won’t be able to perform a precision strike, and therefor will not strike at all.

      Wishful thinking.

  2. Fond memories from 35 years ago, just pre Russian invasion. Down off the Kandahar plain though the Khojak Pass to Quetta and a delicious Chinese meal. IMHO, they’re all crazy round there. Noble, initially friendly, but crazy.

    Robert Holmén Perhaps, but, “collateral damage”.

  3. Might be cheaper to apply a lick of paint and stick various pieces of reflecting scrap on the roofs to break up the pattern for the cameras.

    1. Maybe not, but traditional carpet bombing would really wreck it, and it might not be that stable around earthquakes either. 

  4. penetration munition proof is it ?
    how many seconds for a 3d laser scanner to map, tie together with mapped electronics fuzz and biotracking and hit its target ?.
    the only drone proof buildings are 400 feet underground.
    sounds like the usual graphic art/architechtural crap that they spout.

  5. Security in architecture ended with gunpowder. Security through obscurity will end with pervasive drone monitoring. Maybe the future avenue of safety is security through density, pack occupants together so tightly that even a precision strike will have vast political consequences. We’ve never been more vulnerable alone, perhaps it’s time to pool together our collective vulnerability so any attack is unconscionable.

    Also this is a bad project even for first year studio. This person should feel bad.

  6. Drones are monitoring because your government wants them up there. Defend your airspace and you have no third party flying planes around. Would you rather have millions of CCV cameras like China, US, UK?

  7. Drones are their own biggest weakness.  Tech just gets cheaper and cheaper quickly.  Right now drones are limited to a couple of countries at great expenses, fifteen years from now they will be ubiquitous and cheap.

    Don’t need a missile to knock down a missile carrying drone, just need to crash into it with a smaller faster drone.  

  8. I’d be interested to see an architect take on this kind of a design challenge, supported by someone with real knowledge of how attack drones work.  It ought to be possible to build something that makes it impossible to isolate an individual target.

    Of course that assumes the attacker cares about isolating an individual target.  The U.S. has shown itself willing to kill innocents, dozens at a time, to hit an (alleged) enemy.  On the evidence, there’s been zero domestic political cost.  There may be some scale of mass slaughter of innocents (hundreds?  thousands?) at which my government will balk.

  9. Seems like the favelas of Brazil, which are similarly impenetrable by police or information-seekers.

    I think some of the commenters above are misunderstanding what the creator means by “drone-proof.” This is information-gathering drone-proof — you can’t track people or see clear patterns of movement within the population. It’s also impossible to target individuals without a lot of collateral damage, something that many first-world armies try to avoid (not very hard, always).

    No one’s saying the whole city is missile-proof.

  10. Just plant lots of tall, wide growing trees around a place   String thin lines of polyester between them for a “barrage balloon” effect if you’re really paranid (Nylon degrades in sunlight too fast for long term use).

    Oh and add awnings so it’s impossible to get an oblique look into your place also.

  11. So rebuilding every city in the middle east (or anywhere else a government may want to fly drones) is a more practical approach to solving a difficult political problem than politics? Sorry but i’ll have to vehemently disagree. The inertia of the american political system may be great, but it is not that great.

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