Ring of Steel


Fleet Street, 2010
Sentry box and CCTV cameras for number plate recognition. © Henrietta Williams


Project by photographer Henrietta Williams and mapmaker George Gingell


Up to 4 million CCTV cameras trace and capture the movements of people across Britain every day. Governments are increasingly structuring our urban environments around the idea of the panopticon. We now live in a society in which we are unwittingly ordered and controlled, where security and safety are paramount. Our project seeks to demonstrate the pervasive nature of surveillance society in the UK.

This approach to urban planning, often referred to as “fortress urbanism,” draws on defense initiatives from conflict zones and applies them within civilian locations. The Ring of Steel was first created in 1993 to protect the City of London from the threat of terrorism after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) had identified the capitalist financial center as a perfect target for their bombing campaign.

Yet this is not the first time the area has had to be fortified against attack. The Ring of Steel lies alongside and intersects the ancient London Wall, first constructed by the Romans. Instead of bricks and stone, this contemporary defense system uses CCTV cameras, sentry boxes, bollards, one-way systems,and flower planting. The old street patterns have been redrawn to create a new urban plan that is easy to police. Anonymous non-places are generated to discourage citizens from lingering. People and conventional activities are removed from the streets, unwanted in a new world where surveillance is paramount.

Our project uses maps and photographs to make visible the function, nature, and effect of the Ring of Steel, its role as a panopticon, and demonstrates how it follows an ancient line of defense whilst deploying a very twenty-first century approach to control.



London Ring of Steel © George Gingell


To view an interactive map in 2d click HERE



New Fetter Lane, 2010
Sentry box and CCTV cameras for number plate recognition. © Henrietta Williams



Barbican, 2010
Remnants of London Wall. © Henrietta Williams



Barbican, 2010
Remnants of London Wall. © Henrietta Williams



Snowden Street, 2010
Bollards and privatized road. © Henrietta Williams



Mark Lane, 2010
Tree planting and road blockage. © Henrietta Williams



Deutsche Bank, London Wall, 2011
Flower planters made of reinforced steel and concrete with a granite finish. © Henrietta Williams



1 London Wall, 2011
Remnants of London Wall. © Henrietta Williams



Spital Square, 2010
Private CCTV camera within the Ring of Steel. © Henrietta Williams



Merrill Lynch, King Edward St, 2010
Roman remains of the London Wall lie in the basement of Merrill Lynch Bank. © Henrietta Williams



Broadgate Tower, 2011
The edge of the City of London, to the left is the beginning of the borough of Hackney. © Henrietta Williams



Henrietta Williams is a photographer and videographer based in London. Her work often explores urbanist theories; particularly considering ideas around urbanism, security, and defense. In 2005 she completed a BA in Fine Art Sculpture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, and in 2008 graduated with a distinction from an MA in Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication.
www.henriettawilliams.com | @henri_mwilliams

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