Writing about Manhattan-based architect Archer Landis in Architect of Courage, I had to try to think like he does. Not only does that mean jumping the gender divide, it means bringing to the fore all my instincts about design (my mom was an artist) and my opinions what it takes to be a responsible architect today. Luckily, I’ve subscribed to Metropolis magazine for decades and watched the field’s attention warm to green design, then to sustainability, and, the concern of my post-9/11 character, security.
How can design make buildings safer? In the novel, Archer Landis travels from New York to Brussels to visit the site one of his firm’s major design projects about to break ground. It’s the redesign of a major station in the city’s rail and subway system. The station I chose for his firm to work on was Schuman station, located in the heart of Brussels’ European Union district. Aside from strictly architectural considerations, he faces two major challenges.
Foremost, Landis is worried about terrorism, and he wants to be sure there’s nothing about his firm’s design that makes it more vulnerable. Would a glass canopy make terrorists think access is simple, or that they are too easily scrutinized? I incorporated Schuman station into the novel early on, and had thought a lot about its attractiveness as a target. Nevertheless, I was shocked when, on the morning of March 22, 2016, in real life, suicide bombers attacked Maalbeek metro station, one stop west of Schuman. In this coordinated attack, 35 people were killed and more than 300 injured. I could only wish my fictional choice wasn’t so plausible.
Landis’s second concern arises from protests at the site. Construction will involve removal of a building regarded as “Belgium’s Stonewall,” where a young gay activist was killed some years earlier (again, in real life). The protests seem manageable, and Landis doesn’t immediately realize the danger associated with them.
Eventually, of course, he must deal with both of these dilemmas. I find the melding of fiction and reality a challenge that, for me at least, brings a story vividly to life. To write about Brussels, a city where I’ve never been, I used several detailed maps of the city center and the EU district, and walked the streets with the little Google maps guy. I studied the websites of hotels near Schuman station, restaurant menus, and news outlets, as well as the station itself, which had indeed undergone a major renovation, thoroughly described and dissected online. The availability of that information to me, to you, and to anyone, led to a major epiphany for my fictional architect, in this era of endless information and unpredictable risk.
Architect of Courage is scheduled to be published 4 June 2022.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot of good research for this one. Keep us posted and good luck. Can’t wait to read it.
So interesting. All the research you put into the writing is so impressive. Thank you.