How often do you see a portcullis in modern buildings?
The word portcullis is derived from the old French porte coleïce, meaning sliding door.
A portcullis is suspended in the air by a counter weight; it's a rapid-response defensive mechanism that falls into place when the restraining force of the counter weight is removed.
When enemies approach, the portcullis is dropped to obstruct the ingress of attackers.
A portcullis is heavy so, when dropped, it's an impediment to enemies attempting to access the castle's keep.
This part of the portcullis' task, forming an obstruction, or a blocking door, against attackers, is where the 'porte', or door, part of the portcullis' name comes from.
The fact that the portcullis slides vertically, downwards, into place is where the 'coleïce', or sliding, part of its name comes from.
The porte coleïce, or portcullis, also doubles as an offensive weapon; it may impale some attackers underneath its heavy, iron-clad oak or metal frame.
Once dropped, it also keeps any enemy attackers inside the castle's keep from escaping so that they can be slaughtered by the defenders at the defenders' relative leisure.
So where would you see one of these babies today, in a modern building?
Would you even see one today?
While you are thinking, let us move to my town, Hong Kong.
HSBC is the shorthand name for the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation which was founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai, in 1865, after the second Opium War.
HSBC was founded to fund trade (especially the burgeoning and lucrative opium trade) and its flagship operation was in Hong Kong.
HSBC was well-capitalised and held a lot of cash.
As HSBC was so well capitalised and so well connected in Hong Kong, that gleaming bastion of swashbuckling privateer capitalism, HSBC won the contract to be the central bank for the colony of Hong Kong.
Not only did HSBC offer private citizens, and joint-stock companies, the opportunity to bank with them, and not only did HSBC have the right to print the bank notes for the colony, but HSBC also held the colony's money for the British Crown.
Not a bad job; I am sure it paid well.
Of course, the security had to be tight.
Let's take a selective look at the third generation of the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong, the one built from 1979-1985 by Sir Norman Foster. This is the current HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong.
(Aside: Your humble scribe notes that, after the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control in 1997, he does not believe that HSBC remained the central banker to Hong Kong.)
Still, what high-tech, ingenious security solutions would HSBC's flagship Hong Kong headquarters, the most expensive building in the world, when it was built, incorporate into its design?
First off, HSBC made it a lengthy procedure for crooks to get to the money.
Anyone going to a banking floor, and anyone coming down, has to go up (or down) two very long escalators that go up two stories.
(Or take the heavily guarded elevators that can be locked in position with the would be burglars inside...not such a good idea to use those...)
Supposedly these escalators are angled to make the geomancers happy (the gentlemen who work out the feng shui of the building).
These escalators may be positioned with geomancy-friendly angles... They also slow would-be robbers down and isolate the points of ingress and egress to and from the bank.
Further, you can see that burglars cannot set up trampolines or rappel out quickly with ropes after robbing the joint (retail banking starts at the top of the escalators) because what should be an open atrium has been covered with a floor of thick glass...
(For those of you who worry that this glass partition cuts up the interior space, don't worry. There is an eleven floor atrium above this glass partition.)
This building is nothing if not glass and transparency... so where is the security?
Stop, and look down.
What could that be for?
And look up...
OK. That is not too useful.
Step forwards again, into the light, and away from the building...
Hmm. There seems to be something up there.... Something metallic, but there is too much glare from the glass. Let us try looking up from inside.
There you have it.
See that stainless steel grate? That is the portcullis.
Rob HSBC Hong Kong and the portcullis drops down, locking you inside the building until the police arrive.
Maybe you'll even be impaled, in which case you ought to continue waiting for an ambulance.
If you know of other, normally archaic architectural features that are used in modern buildings, your scribe would love to know. Welcome to my town...