Hostile architecture, parts of public spaces that discourage skating and homeless sleeping, have become increasingly common in recent years–and this needs to stop.
As dividers, railings, spikes, and slanted surfaces grow increasingly common in our public spaces. They target the youth, elderly, and economically disadvantaged by restricting the physical behavior of these communities.
Intended to create discomfort and inconvenience for the skateboarding youth, the elderly who take breaks on benches, and the homeless who seek shelter in public as the night falls, these hostile structures leave the underprivileged oppressed even in recreational spaces for the public and are ruining the enjoyment of public spaces as a whole.
This unwelcoming urban design does not just affect homeless people, however. Another community impacted by this is the skating community. The architecture in question is not just aimed at homeless people but also skaters. You can see this on things like rails, ledges, and knee-high concrete benches or slabs.
In addition to deterring skaters, these benches also make them less comfortable to sit on for long periods. This means people are not able to enjoy their environment as much as they want to because of the people shaping the spaces.
Not only does this stop people from enjoying their community it also stops them from being able to do things that do not involve businesses. This leads to an over-centralization of consumer activities and takes away from the public aspect of public spaces as well as creates a decline in the creation of new public areas.
It tells people that if they are not buying something or eating somewhere then they have no business being there. That leads to a decrease in public activity and can kill smaller communities.
These hostile architectural styles can range from large pieces that look nice to small stoppers dedicated to stopping skaters and sleepers alike.
Some have been taking this matter into their own hands in lots of ways. Some of these methods include petitioning to get these bumps and stoppers removed. Others grab a hacksaw and move in silence at night like lasagna.
In 2014, a bench was unveiled near the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. Backlash quickly arose and the bench’s “pig’s ears”, or uncomfortable spikes that discouraged homeless encampment, were quickly removed. The Guardian wrote an article about the incident saying that many people were angered about hostile architecture in their area, and after gaining 100,000 signatures the benches were remodeled with their anti-homeless features removed.
People argue that having these blockers can beautify the community. These same people will also argue that skaters and homeless people make their area look less sophisticated and uglier. As stated in TPM Builder’s “Hostile Architecture versus Defensive Architecture, “Hostile architecture is designed to stop people using public spaces in ‘undesirable’ ways.” The article goes on to say in the next line: “This could be anything from sleeping on benches to finding creative surfaces to skate off. The idea is to keep anti-social behavior at bay.” This gives the idea that skating is antisocial behavior and that it shouldn’t be allowed in public spaces.
The idea that one recreational activity that people enjoy and is featured in the Olympics is offensive.
Skating is beginning to lose the concrete jungle we know and love to skate in. Instead of taking away skater’s places, make more durable structures that won’t get ruined or blackened by trucks.
Homeless people are losing what little shelter they have. Instead of displacing homeless people, give them a safe space to shelter themselves.
In an ever-more-diverse society of today’s time, public spaces should benefit the public rather than the privileged few: although hostile architecture satisfies the aesthetics of the privileged few, the greater number of underprivileged communities takes the fall for this unpractical pursuit of superficial aesthetics. Thus, let us return to the public-aiding nature of civil architecture and create a public space that welcomes all, not some.