From spikes installed on window ledges to bars that divide benches into a set number of seats, examples of disciplinary architecture — otherwise known as hostile urban architecture — are all around us. Such designs deliberately restrict certain behaviors in public spaces, and while they affect everyone, they especially target homeless individuals, who cannot rest on these surfaces.
The UK-based artist Stuart Semple has created a campaign to try and raise awareness about these often subtle forms of social control. Today, he launched a website, Hostile Design, as a platform where people can easily and quickly spread word about these designs. It simply calls for anyone to photograph examples anywhere in the world, and share them on Instagram with the hashtag #hostiledesign. The website then aggregates these in a “design crime gallery.”
“Hostile design is design that intends to restrict freedom or somehow control a human being — be that homeless people, a skater or everyday humans congregating to enjoy themselves,” Semple told Hyperallergic. “The danger of hostile design is it’s so insidious. It’s so quiet, so camouflaged, that unless you know what it is, you accept it. And that blind acceptance makes things grow and spread.”
To further inform people beyond the digital sphere, he is also distributing stickers he created, which are available on the website. These “design crime” stickers are intended for pasting on offending surfaces and are available through pay-what-you-can pricing.
Living rural, I don’t see things like the above bus stop, which honestly shocked me. I’m about the size of a twig, and trying to sit on that “bench” would be very uncomfortable for me. Has it become so important to us to keep the afflicted and unfortunate out of sight that we willingly go along with being punished by this “disciplinary architecture”? This certainly strikes me as immoral and unethical, making every surrounding hostile because oh my, someone might actually find a place they could lie down and sleep, the horror! Par for the course, there’s zero effort to do anything about the problem of homeless people, but there’s a whole lot of effort going into driving them away from all public spaces. Certainly does not speak well of us. This isn’t just about driving the unfortunate out of sight, there’s also a public stair handrail, which has a block placed on it, just in case anyone had a fit of happy and wanted to slide on the railing.
I can’t say I’ve noticed anything like this in Bismarck, but I’m arming myself with stickers, and I’ll be looking.
There’s much more to read and see at Hyperallergic.