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The Anti-Human Design of Hostile Architecture

Hostile design has been popping up in cities around the world. Critics say it’s making public spaces less people friendly, but proponents say its necessary.

Spikes on park walls, metal dividers on benches, and barricades in public spaces are all elements of hostile architecture that have been appearing in cities across the world. These elements have been added to deter “undesirable” groups, such as the youth and the homeless, from using these spaces to sleep or play.

What is Hostile Architecture? 

Hostile architecture is defined as an urban-design strategy that uses elements of the built environment to purposefully guide or restrict behavior.

Supporters argue that this hostile architecture is essential for maintaining order, ensuring safety, and reducing undesirable behavior such as loitering, sleeping, or skateboarding.

But the rise in hostile in cities across the world has drawn backlash, who say that these measures hurt our most vulnerable and target certain groups of people.

“We’re building barriers and walls around apartment buildings and public spaces to keep out the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life,” said Jon Ritter, architectural historian plus an associate professor at NYU. (New York University)

Bench in a Bus Shelter; Brooklyn. Via Wikicommons
(Source: Tdorante10.)

But hostile architecture only treats the symptom, not the problem. Building benches that people can’t sleep on doesn’t solve homelessness. If we don’t want to see hostile architecture on our streets, we need to make the reason for hostile architecture null. Public investments need to be made to end homelessness, such as building more housing and giving support to our most vulnerable. Once we see investments like this, we won’t have to see hostile architecture.



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