Hostile architecture is all around us, guiding our behavior and influencing how we use public space. But what is it exactly? And why is it bad? In this article, we will explore some reasons why we should be concerned about hostile architecture: because it reduces our freedom and because it makes it harder for public spaces to fulfill their dual functions of sustaining local communities and providing a space for democracy to play out.
Hostile architecture is the term used to describe an approach to urban design that uses the built environment (e.g. benches, ledges, hedges, lawns, walls) to purposefully guide or restrict behavior. Hostile architecture is all around us, especially in cities; and once you’ve learned the term, it is impossible not to notice it.
Ever waited for a bus on a bench you can’t sit on but only rest against? That’s hostile architecture. Ever seen those spikes on the ground in the center of the city? That’s hostile architecture. In both cases, the primary goal is to stop the homeless (or people who want to loiter in the street) from getting too comfortable. In other cases, the targets are other groups. Skateboarders are kept away from tempting obstacles to jump over or grind down (such as stone benches) by the insertion of small metal spikes between the slabs of stone.