I recently did a deep dive into the world of hostile architecture (aka defensive architecture, hostile design, unpleasant design, exclusionary design, and defensive urban design). I had noticed it in my designed living environment, and I realised it was deliberate, but I did not know it had a name.
If you think of
- park benches that have no backs or are made of bumpy concrete
- airport seats that have armrests in the middle
- broad window sills or doorsteps with spikes
- sloped benches or sills
- low walls with protruding pieces of metal placed at regular intervals
- gaps in awnings
- malls that have removed benches
- trees or large potted plants on pavements
- rocks or large cobblestones
They are all designed to stop ‘undesirable behaviours’ such as skateboarding along ledges, public urination, begging, loitering, sleeping rough.
The Camden bench (below) is quite famous because you cannot sleep on it, hide drug paraphernalia anywhere, and the surface is impervious to graffiti. But no one would be able to sit on it comfortably. So in trying to stop socially unwanted behaviours, it is actually depriving everyone of a place to rest – the elderly or disabled, young parents with children.
I am torn on this one. I get that it is uncomfortable to see homeless people sleeping in the streets or people begging in public places. It’s unpleasant to see people urinating in public. And very disturbing seeing drug addicts buying and using in public spaces. But on the other hand, it seems cruel to deliberately chase off vulnerable people who find themselves on the margins of society because the establishment finds their behaviour offensive. Where are they expected to go? Doesn’t everyone have a right to public space?
What do you think?