willmorris

"Hostile architecture" AKA "defensive design"

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So as some of you know, I live just outside Philadelphia, and Philly's got a slight homeless problem. I'm not surprised; many big cities have one. But rather than spending money on helping homeless people, we get things like this:

 

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This is a bench that was installed at the 8th and Market SEPTA station. We also get things like this:

 

ADXSQlX.png

 

This is a bench that's above ground in nearly the same area.

These benches are designed with a purpose: to make people linger as little as possible. It basically says to homeless people, "you're not really welcome here."

Do we really need to be encouraging hostile architecture in this world?

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I honestly support these. They don't look too bad, and they keep the streets clean. I don't mean it in a negative way, but homeless people shouldn't be sleeping on benches, they should be going to shelters and places that can help them.

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11 minutes ago, Zeus89725 said:

I honestly support these. They don't look too bad, and they keep the streets clean. I don't mean it in a negative way, but homeless people shouldn't be sleeping on benches, they should be going to shelters and places that can help them.

I can appreciate that perspective but when it seems that they'd rather build benches than actually attack the root cause and help homeless people.

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1 minute ago, willmorris said:

I can appreciate that perspective but when it seems that they'd rather build benches than actually attack the root cause and help homeless people.

 

Building benches has nothing to do with attacking the root cause of homelessness.  It's possible to do both at the same time, and it's totally different organizations doing each.

 

Lots of the el stops in the city have had similar benches to those for as long as I've been riding it, so I don't think that's new.  Also, if you've ever been in Suburban Station, it's basically a big homeless shelter - at times, literally every bench is being slept on, and commuters have to huddle around the entrances for their tracks because there's often disturbances.  Businesses have actually had to close, because of homeless camping out in the concourse area, and the police / transit police being ineffective at keeping them moving (they're supposed to wake everyone up and inform them that their eyes need to be open or they have to leave.) 

 

I'm very sensitive to the homeless problem, and support the programs that are starting up (specifically the one that is actually in Suburban Station, Project Home), but I think you're way off base with your criticism of what you call "hostile architecture."  You don't live in the city and I assume you don't encounter the homeless problem literally every day, whether it's commuting to/from Suburban Station (which I do daily), biking or walking through the Convention Center area (which I do several evenings during the week), or date someone who lives right near one of the Hamsterdam / safe injection areas (which I do.)  There are a lot of programs to help (granted, there certainly needs to be more, and more available beds), but the biggest problem is that many of them refuse to get the help, and part of the reason why (just speculating) is that all things considered, it's relatively "easy" to be homeless in Philadelphia, since there's makeshift "cities" of homeless people.  Taking that away could potentially drive them to take advantage of the services available to help them get back on their feet or kick their addiction.

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This is a problem throughout the country. Income insecurity, opioid crisis, rising housing prices and other factors have contributed to a huge rise in homelessness. Generally, cities are bearing the brunt of it, because they're more likely to offer services and/or a safe place for homeless people to congregate together. Seattle has had an incredible rise in homelessness and we are also dealing with ways to address things like camping, public safety, and drug addiction. It's not pretty and there are no easy solutions.

 

Unfortunately, because it's a problem that generally affects urban areas, there is no federal support to be expected. Which, really, is what we need. Not hostile architecture, not tent sweeps, not whatever. It's a huge problem that needs a huge response.

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16 hours ago, willmorris said:

:

 

ADXSQlX.png

 

This is a bench that's above ground in nearly the same area.

These benches are designed with a purpose: to make people linger as little as possible. It basically says to homeless people, "you're not really welcome here."

Do we really need to be encouraging hostile architecture in this world?

We also need to make sure that those darn skateboarders can't grind on concrete planters like this.

 

Tongue partially in cheek. I understand that grinding does damage the edges of the concrete. I don't think it is that big of a deal.

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Saw this a few weeks ago and it was funny:

 

hostile-architecture.jpg

 

Homeless-proof pride bench (the trans community has a major homeless problem because they get kicked out of their homes)

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sofaCement.jpg

 

Columbus has a bench that is the opposite of hostile. 

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i dont think its so black and white. not knowing anything about the city's politics, i get the impression that these examples of "hostile architecture" are intended, above all else, to keep traffic flowing freely. i dont believe they target homeless, but target everyone— i imagine those would be decent places to sit and eat a cheesesteak, but at the cost of slowing or crowing those areas. is that something the city should be spending money on? i would say yes

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On 6/4/2018 at 1:08 PM, BrandMooreArt said:

i dont think its so black and white. not knowing anything about the city's politics, i get the impression that these examples of "hostile architecture" are intended, above all else, to keep traffic flowing freely. i dont believe they target homeless, but target everyone— i imagine those would be decent places to sit and eat a cheesesteak, but at the cost of slowing or crowing those areas. is that something the city should be spending money on? i would say yes

 

Only tourists eat cheesesteaks.  And I hate the entire argument that this thread is about.  The argument is basically "if it's not a bed, it's hostile".  "If it's designed to be used for its intended purpose by everyone, and not the person monopolizing it for hours if not days, then it's hostile."  That's simply not the case.

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I'm sorry, but the critiques of the original post are really bugging me.


You might have noticed that, when Americans talk about "the homeless problem", they are talking not about the suffering that homeless people endure, but rather about their own annoyance at having to put up with seeing homeless people. What's more, most people in this country seem to reflexively blame homeless people for their condition, as though there are no structural factors at play.  If you asked a hundred non-homeless people at random about what causes homelessness, I would be shocked if at least 95 of them didn't mention the word "drugs" in the first sentence of their response, and if they didn't go on to say essentially that the homeless have done it to themselves.  This is an expression of an extreme individualism, an ideology that espouses the false notion that everyone has an equal chance to succeed, and that everyone therefore gets whatever he or she deserves.

This belief leads inexorably to a contempt for poor people and most especially for homeless people. From this way of thinking it follows that society has no responsibility to help homeless people, and that the only responsibility that society has with respect to the homeless is to keep them away from me and from other normal people like me — an attitude which accounts for the dearth of social services that would keep homeless people from having to rely on train station benches and other public amenities in the first place. 

The fact is that a homeless person is just as entitled to use a public space or a public facility as you are or I am.  But we have forgotten that homeless people are human beings.  And only in a society in which the dehumanisation of the homeless has become a fully mainstream trait could designs such as the seats we see above be installed in public places.  

@willmorris correctly points out that those designs tell homeless people "you are not welcome here".  Indeed, they go farther than that; they are manifestations of the desire to say to the homeless: you are not part of human society; you are the equivalent of garbage.  For this reason, I am of the opinion that design which is explicitly intended to exclude homeless people from a public amenity is inhumane and cruel. 

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10 minutes ago, Ferdinand Cesarano said:

The fact is that a homeless person is just as entitled to use a public space or a public facility as you are or I am

To that, I have the same response that I had to the Occupy movement: those public spaces don't belong to you or I; they belong to everyone. It's not there for one person or a small group to monopolize its use.

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As someone whose been homeless, going to a shelter is the best thing to do, but sometimes heading to one can cause bigger issues and not everyone has the ID on them to get into one (At least where I live, you need ID to get in, and mind you, I'm Canadian). Anyways, I get what these benches are designed for and I have 0 issue with them. What I do have an issue with is that there's not enough support & so many people get lumped into a category in shelters. It's a hostile environment most of the time, and that can be hard on anybody. People assume things, people steal things, you get left having to do everything by yourself & for myself, it was hard to sleep, much less get anything else done. The one thing that kept me sane was the fact I had someone in my corner helping me out not associated with the shelter, but most don't have that. A lot of people who go into these fields of work say they care, but most of the time they're just as depressed as the person on the other side. It's sad. 

 

Anyways, rant over. Also, that bench in Columbus looks cozy even though it's not. 

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On 6/6/2018 at 9:24 PM, BringBackTheVet said:

 

Only tourists eat cheesesteaks.  And I hate the entire argument that this thread is about.  The argument is basically "if it's not a bed, it's hostile".  "If it's designed to be used for its intended purpose by everyone, and not the person monopolizing it for hours if not days, then it's hostile."  That's simply not the case.

 

I'd say people eat hoagies more, but no one is walking down the street eating a hoagie or cheesesteak or on a bench.

And yea personally I have a cheesesteak maybe twice a year and no, it's never from Pat's or Geno's.

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On 6/7/2018 at 9:44 PM, EddieJ1984 said:

 

I'd say people eat hoagies more, but no one is walking down the street eating a hoagie or cheesesteak or on a bench.

And yea personally I have a cheesesteak maybe twice a year and no, it's never from Pat's or Geno's.

 

Roast pork. And yes, people eat them on benches. I’m not sure where you live/work, but I disagree with your opinions of what goes on in the actual city. 

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1 hour ago, BringBackTheVet said:

 

Roast pork. And yes, people eat them on benches. I’m not sure where you live/work, but I disagree with your opinions of what goes on in the actual city. 

 

I used to live in Northeast Philly. 

Of course northeast is different than center city and south Philly. 

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I don't think anyone has a right to lay on these benches or monopolize their use. Benches are not meant as beds or as homes; they're meant as a place for people to temporarily sit and rest while going about their day. Designing benches that discourage people from laying on them is actually a way to design them for their intended use - sitting temporarily.

 

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2 hours ago, kroywen said:

don't think anyone has a right to lay on these benches or monopolize their use. Benches are not meant as beds or as homes; they're meant as a place for people to temporarily sit and rest while going about their day. Designing benches that discourage people from laying on them is actually a way to design them for their intended use - sitting temporarily

 

It is true that benches are not for lying down.  So the police or whoever is in charge of security have the right to order someone who is lying on a bench to sit up.  (Of course, common sense would dictate that the authorities exercise this power during the hours when the station is crowded, as opposed to, let's say, the overnight hours.)

The design of these benches does indeed meet the end of keeping people from lying down; so on that level it is a success. But this design does more than that.  The underlying message could not be clearer: this design takes the approach of an arms race, which therefore implies the existence of an enemy. I think that we all need to consider whether normalising — and even exacerbating — hostility towards suffering people is the right thing to do.  The moral responsibility to address such questions is universal; one is not absolved from this by means of a singleminded focus on "getting the job done". So for me the questions of sociology and of morality trump those of design in this case.

 

 

 

6 hours ago, EddieJ1984 said:

I used to live in Northeast Philly. 

Of course northeast is different than center city and south Philly. 

 

Ah, Northeast Philly; the Queens of Philadelphia.  That's where I stay when I go down there.  (Which, if all goes well, will happen again next week.) 


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There is some great bike riding in that section of town. Indeed, Philly has wonderful bike lanes all over the city.  This is a situtation which constrasts strongly with New York, whose bike lanes are concentrated in Manhattan and in a few areas adjacent to Manhattan.

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San Francisco got rid of most of the seating and benches in Civic Center Plaza in the 1990s and at the United Nations Plaza in the early 2000s.

 

Now the city's libraries are the areas undergoing changes, with the Castro District's Harvey Milk Library being renovated last year with tree removal to improve outside visibility, making the plaza area smaller, and the replacing the old vegetation with cactus. 

http://www.ktvu.com/news/critics-new-design-aims-to-homeless-proof-san-francisco-library

 

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