What is Hostile Architecture?
Hostile architecture is the practice of designing public spaces or items to be used in a public space, in order to discourage particular behaviours or uses. These designs are often used against homeless people, skateboarders, and drug users to force them out of the public eye. It is used to hide the symptoms of societal problems but doesn't address the root causes (lack of safe shelters, safe injection sites, and skate parks). Hostile architecture is an often unnoticed way to determine who has the right to use public spaces and who does not, unnoticed until the person being designed against is you.
Inspiration and Goals
While I don't remember the exact circumstances that piqued my interest in what many refer to as 'hostile architecture' I do know that I can't leave my apartment without being reminded of it. Everywhere I go there are examples, unnecessary armrests, leaning bars, bumps, and spikes. When I started focusing more of my energy on photography I knew that I wanted to start documenting this phenomenon. I wanted to spread awareness and make people think about the mundane items they see every day. What these items were designed to do, and what (or who) they were designed to prevent.
Benches are, in my opinion, one of the most visible forms of hostile architecture. Three adaptations made to benches that classify them as hostile are:
- armrests designed to prevent people from lying down or sleeping
- awkward dimensions that make them uncomfortable for more than a couple of minutes
- materials and designs chosen to make the benches less warm to sit on
A relatively new item that is making its way into public spaces is the leaning bar. Leaning bars are often used in lieu of benches. They offer people a place to perch but are designed to prevent people from sitting on them. In addition to targeting homeless people they are also frequently criticised by disability advocates because they also heavily affect people with mobility or fatigue problems who need more than a "wall to lean against".