Design features intended to deter homeless people have been slammed in a thread detailing the most cruel examples of ‘hostile architecture’.
The origin of the term is unknown, but cities throughout the world show examples of the purposefully obstructive design features. However, some – like sloping benches or ‘artwork’ in wide doorways – are subtle enough that members of the public never really pause to think of their intent.
The thread called out the most prevalent examples of anti-homeless architecture, causing outrage and forcing people to take notice of inhumane and insidious design practices.
Hostile architecture: A viral thread shows the lengths that cities are going to, installing dangerous spikes and obstacles to prevent homeless people, like this unnamed man, resting
Sleeping rough: A business owner went to extreme measures to prevent a homeless person resting in a doorway, however someone placed a mattress on the poles to spite them, right
Mixed messages: A Twitter user questioned why someone would paint a bench to represent inclusivity, while also making it clear that homeless people were not to rest on it
Several images show benches with bars in the middle of the seating area – a normal sight in many urban areas.
A Canadian Twitter user shared an image of a park bench painted in LGBTQ-friendly rainbow colors that had multiple dividing bars in the middle.
Social media users were angered at how the bench could promote inclusivity to one community while discriminating against people who were seeking a place to sleep.
Another image showed a bench in Volgodonsk, Russia that appeared to be chained up overnight to prevent anyone resting on it.
‘That is exceptionally mean,’ someone wrote.
Numerous images showed dangerous-looking spikes in open spaces and underneath bridges.
A social media user shared images of a bank in Mumbai, India, which had sharp iron spikes surrounding its exterior; a move to discourage people from seeking shelter there.
‘Is this for real? Sickening,’ a commentor denounced.
Bars: An individual demonstrates how impossible it is to rest when benches have barriers installed in the middle of them
Extreme: A bench in Volgodonsk, Russia, is shown to be chained up at night to prevent anyone from sleeping on it
Dangerous: A bank in Mumbai was criticized for installing sharp iron spikes around its exterior
‘This is the most heartless and cruel thing I have ever seen! Shame on you,’ said another.
A picture was circulated of the area underneath an overpass where tracks of spikes had been laid down to prevent anyone trying to set up camp.
‘The brutalist architecture, the anti-homeless aggressiveness….it is freaking awful….[what the hell does it matter if they sleep under the overpass? Leave them be,’ slammed a response.
Lest people remain unaware, someone pointed out that spheres or any other shapes inset into concrete might look less intimidating – but the intent is still the same.
‘Spikes or balls, it doesn’t matter, it’s all equally cruel,’ commented a user – as someone shared an image of what looked like neon green cacti in a doorway.
However many pointed out at least the spheres or other shapes were not ‘as dangerous’ as metal spikes.
Topic Magazine estimates that the prevalence of hostile architecture began to rise in the 1980s and 1990s in America.
‘Architects began to use urban design to combat behaviors [like sitting, standing, waiting sleeping in public] and hostile architecture became a familiar sight.
‘Art’: People criticized cities for pretending to install art when the purpose was to deter people sleeping in nooks
Insidious: The practice for installing these deterrents that discriminate against homeless people has been called ‘inhumane’ and ‘insidious’
Heartless: A Reddit user shared this image and slammed the unknown person who slashed a homeless individual’s tent as ‘heartless’ and ‘the worst’
‘The changes they made to the urban environment were small but ingenious. A nubbin on a handrail could, for instance, send a skateboarder flying, or a warm subway grate would get covered with spikes, turning a potential winter comfort for a homeless person into a form of medieval torture,’ the outlet reports.
The magazine writes that in a busy metropolis like New York, the details are subtle but substantial.
Steps: Users questioned why this business owner made their steps virtually inaccessible by adding this intense design feature
For example, in certain subway stations, there are no benches anymore, having been replaced with ‘leaning areas’.
In public parks, almost all benches now have dividing rails making it near-impossible for someone to stretch out to sleep.
In the 1990s in downtown Los Angeles, ‘bum-proof benches’ were installed on Skid Row, an area which has the largest homeless population in the U.S.
Said barrel-shaped benches at bus stops made sitting for any extended period of time highly uncomfortable – let alone sleeping.
A 2019 report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty studied 187 American cities in a bid to assess the amount of areas that ‘criminalize the life-sustaining behaviors of homeless people’.
The research found that 57 per cent of the cities imposed a law prohibiting camping in public. Some 65 per cent of cities also prohibit loitering in public places.
Of the cities studied, 27 per cent prohibit sleeping in particular public places, such as in public parks, while a shocking 53 per cent of cities prevent homeless people from sitting or lying down.