News & Blogs Defensive architecture - aka anti-homeless spikes (1 Viewer)

Tude

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Wow - I found this on another familiar site (thank you Rebecca) but seriously - I knew and have seen some of this stuff on some railings and ornamental areas where I live and thought they just didn't want people to disrupt their gardens and such, how sad am I to realize that there is more to it.

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/18/defensive-architecture-keeps-poverty-undeen-and-makes-us-more-hostile?CMP=fb_gu
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Anti-homeless spikes: ‘Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city’s barbed cruelty’



The spikes installed outside Selfridges in Manchester are the latest front in the spread of ‘defensive architecture’. Is such open hostility towards the destitute making all our lives uglier?

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Metal studs outside private flats on Southwark Bridge Road, London. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

Alex Andreou

Wednesday 18 February 2015 13.30 ESTLast modified on Wednesday 18 February 201519.05 EST

More than 100 homeless people are “living” in the terminals of Heathrow airport this winter, according to official figures – a new and shameful record. Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have warned that homelessness in London is rising significantly faster than the nationwide average, and faster than official estimates. And yet, we don’t see as many people sleeping rough as in previous economic downturns. Have our cities become better at hiding poverty, or have we become more adept at not seeing it?

Last year, there was great public outcry against the use of “anti-homeless” spikesoutside a London residential complex, not far from where I live. Social media was set momentarily ablaze with indignation, a petition was signed, a sleep-in protest undertaken, Boris Johnson was incensed and within a few days they were removed. This week, however, it emerged that Selfridges had installed metal spikes outside one of its Manchester stores – apparently to “reduce litter and smoking … following customer complaints”. The phenomenon of “defensive” or “disciplinary” architecture, as it is known, remains pervasive.

From ubiquitous protrusions on window ledges to bus-shelter seats that pivot forward, from water sprinklers and loud muzak to hard tubular rests, from metal park benches with solid dividers to forests of pointed cement bollards under bridges, urban spaces are aggressively rejecting soft, human bodies.

We see these measures all the time within our urban environments, whether in London or Tokyo, but we fail to process their true intent. I hardly noticed them before I became homeless in 2009. An economic crisis, a death in the family, a sudden breakup and an even more sudden breakdown were all it took to go from a six-figure income to sleeping rough in the space of a year. It was only then that I started scanning my surroundings with the distinct purpose of finding shelter and the city’s barbed cruelty became clear.

I learned to love London Underground’s Circle line back then. To others it was just the rather inefficient yellow line on the tube network. To me – and many homeless people – it was a safe, dry, warm container, continually travelling sometimes above the surface, sometimes below, like a giant needle stitching London’s centre into place. Nobody harassed you or moved you on. You were allowed to take your poverty on tour. But engineering work put a stop to that.

Next was a bench in a smallish park just off Pentonville Road. An old, wooden bench, made concave and smooth by thousands of buttocks, underneath a sycamore with foliage so thick that only the most persistent rain could penetrate it. Sheltered and warm, perched as it was against a wall behind which a generator of some sort radiated heat, this was prime property. Then, one morning, it was gone. In its place stood a convex metal perch, with three solid armrests. I felt such loss that day.

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Hostile architecture on the former Coutts Bank, Fleet Stree, London. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian
“When you’re designed against, you know it,” says Ocean Howell, who teaches architectural history at the University of Oregon, speaking about anti-skateboarding designs. “Other people might not see it, but you will. The message is clear: you are not a member of the public, at least not of the public that is welcome here.” The same is true of all defensive architecture. The psychological effect is devastating.

There is a wider problem, too. These measures do not and cannot distinguish the “vagrant” posterior from others considered more deserving. When we make it impossible for the dispossessed to rest their weary bodies at a bus shelter, we also make it impossible for the elderly, for the infirm, for the pregnant woman who has had a dizzy spell. By making the city less accepting of the human frame, we make it less welcoming to all humans. By making our environment more hostile, we become more hostile within it.

Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations, especially in retail districts. It is a symptom of the clash of private and public, of necessity and property.

Pavement sprinklers have been installed by buildings as diverse as the famousStrand book store in New York, a fashion chain in Hamburg and government offices in Guangzhou. They spray the homeless intermittently, soaking them and their possessions. The assertion is clear: the public thoroughfare in front of a building, belongs to the building’s occupant, even when it is not being used.

Setha Low, a professor in environmental psychology, and urban geographer Neil Smith, in their book The Politics of Public Space, describe the phenomenon as a creeping encroachment that has “culminated in the multiple closures, erasures, inundations and transfigurations of public space at the behest of state and corporate strategies”. They contend that the very economic and political revolutions that freed people from autocratic monarchies also enshrined principles of private property at the expense of a long tradition of common land.

Sculptor Fabian Brunsing brought a satirical eye to the issue by creating the “pay bench”, an art installation of a park bench that retracts its metal spikes for a limited time when the prospective sitter feeds it a coin. Chinese officials, completely missing the joke, thought that this was a great idea and installed similar benches in Yantai Park of the Shangdong province.

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Concrete spikes under a road bridge in Guangzhou city, Guangdong, China. Photograph: Imaginechina/REX
The architecture of our cities is a powerful guide to behaviour, both directly and in its symbolism. One of the very first acts of the newly elected Syriza government in Greece was to remove the metal barriers between the Hellenic parliament and Syntagma Square. The effect on the centre of Athens of the removal of this barricade – which represented the strife of the last few years – was almost magical, as if an entire city breathed a sigh of relief. The symbolism of a government saying that they were a part of the people, rather than apart from the people, was understood by all.

Artist Nils Norman has been documenting the phenomenon of defensive architecture since the late 90s with thousands of photographs. This “vernacular of terror”, as he calls it, has its roots in leftover space or “gap sites”: plots that are too small to develop but large enough to encourage loitering. He sees the loss of public space as directly related to a loss of public life. “City space is quietly altered to maximimise its control and circulation,” he says. “Benches become bum-free, which in turn become ‘perches’, which are in turn removed. As city spaces become cleaner and more symbolically ‘safe’, defensive design becomes more abundant and paranoid.”

Recently, as I walked into my local bakery, a homeless man (whom I had seen a few times before) asked whether I could get him something to eat. When I asked Ruth – one of the young women who work behind the counter – to put a couple of pasties in a separate bag and explained why, her censure was severe: “He probably makes more money than you from begging, you know,” she said, bluntly.

He probably didn’t. Half his face was covered with sores. A blackened, gangrenous-looking toe protruded from a hole in his ancient shoe. His left hand looked mangled and was covered in dry blood from some recent accident or fight. I pointed this out. Ruth was unmoved by my protestations. “I don’t care,” she said. “They foul in the green opposite. They’re a menace. Animals.”

It’s precisely this viewpoint that defensive architecture upholds. That the destitute are a different species altogether; inferior and responsible for their demise. Like pigeons to be shooed away; urban foxes disturbing our slumber with their screams. “Shame on you,” jumped in Libby, the older lady who works at the bakery. “That is someone’s son you’re talking about.”

We curse the destitute for urinating in public spaces with no thought about how far the nearest free public toilet might be. We blame them for their poor hygiene without questioning the lack of public facilities for washing. It costs £5 to take a shower at King’s Cross station. Wilful misconceptions about homelessness abound. For instance, that shelters are plentiful and sleeping rough is a lifestyle choice. Free shelters, unless one belongs to a particularly vulnerable group, are actually extremely rare. Getting a bed often depends on a referral from a local agency, which, in turn, depends on being able to prove a local connection. For the majority of homeless people, who have usually graduated from a life as itinerant sofa-surfers, it is impossible to prove.

This tripartite pressure of an increasingly hostile built environment, huge reduction in state budgets, and a hardening attitude to poverty can be disastrous for people sleeping rough, both physically and psychologically. Fundamental misunderstanding of destitution is designed to exonerate the rest from responsibility and insulate them from perceiving risk. All of us are encouraged to spend future earnings through credit. For the spell to be effective, it is essential to be in a sort of denial about the possibility that such future earnings could dry up. Most of us are a couple of pay packets from being insolvent. We despise homeless people for bringing us face to face with that fact.

Poverty exists as a parallel, but separate, reality. City planners work very hard to keep it outside our field of vision. It is too miserable, too dispiriting, too painful to look at someone defecating in a park or sleeping in a doorway and think of him as “someone’s son”. It is easier to see him and ask only the unfathomably self-centred question: “How does his homelessness affect me?” So we cooperate with urban design and work very hard at not seeing, because we do not want to see. We tacitly agree to this apartheid.

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Spikes installed outside Selfridges in Manchester. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian.
A homeless man, Pawel Koseda, was found dead last year; bled out, impaled on the six-inch spikes of the metal fence that surrounds St Mary Abbots in Kensington, the Camerons’ chosen place of worship. He had high levels of alcohol in his blood and was wearing hospital pyjamas under his clothes. Koseda used to be a university lecturer in Poland. Ed Boord, who found the body, said that several people walked by and didn’t even notice. “It upset me that someone like that spends their life not being noticed,” he said, “and even in their last moments people still walk past.”

Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research says that UK homeless numbers have increased by a third in the last five years. Benefit sanctions are cited as the main reason. In this context of depressed wages and soaring living costs, reduced services and lack of housing, we are facing a humanitarian disaster. The Red Cross is involved in food aid in the UK for the first time since the second world war. Can our response as a civilised society really be limited to moving people on from our doorsteps?

This, more than anything else, will determine our future as a species. Our ability to share will be key to our survival. The rough sleeper’s bad fortune is intricately connected to someone else’s good fortune. The person sleeping outside the expensive Bond Street boutique is part of the same nexus as the person inside spending £500 on a pair of socks.

Resources are scarce. Infinite wealth creation is a fairytale. Real wealth – land, food, water, fuel – has physical limitations. If some take more than they need, others go without. We obsessively focus on the external: carbon emissions, recycling, charity work, social security, saving the snow leopard – all of them excellent goals – while doggedly refusing to look inwards and make the adjustments that might allow us to coexist more equitably.

A ray of hope from Vancouver – benches that unfold into shelters and read “This is a bench” during the day, but light up to reveal “This is a bedroom” at night. Perhaps a small step on what David Harvey, author of Social Justice and the City, calls the “path from an urbanism based on exploitation to an urbanism appropriate for the human species”.

Defensive architecture acts as the airplane curtain that separates economy from business and business from first class, protecting those further forward from the envious eyes of those behind. It keeps poverty unseen and sanitises our shopping centres, concealing any guilt for over-consuming. It speaks volumes about our collective attitude to poverty in general and homelessness in particular. It is the aggregated, concrete, spiked expression of a lack of generosity of spirit.

Ironically, it doesn’t even achieve its basic goal of making us feel safer. There is no way of locking others out that doesn’t also lock us in. The narrower the arrow-slit, the larger outside dangers appear. Making our urban environment hostile breeds hardness and isolation. It makes life a little uglier for all of us.
 

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outskirts

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What fucking sadist architect dreamed this one up? The only way I can see to beat it is with a lightweight piece of plywood, just big enough to sleep on and light enough to haul. Sure inconvenient, but it would work.
 

Preacher

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ap_homeless_spikes_tg_140609_16x9_992-jpg.19382_Defensive architecture - aka anti-homeless spikes_Squatting_Squat the Planet_9:37 PM

ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/International/sidewalk-spikes-luxury-building-irritate-londons-mayor/story?id=24057753
Sidewalk Spikes Outside Luxury Building Irritate London's Mayor
June 9, 2014
By YAZHOU SUN
Politicians and an online petition are urging the owners of a luxury London building to remove metal studs embedded in the sidewalk nooks, which are seen as an attempt to keep homeless people from sleeping in building's recesses. A petition on Change.org was created to challenge the property developer and “support the silent population.” “We should be looking after our vulnerable population, not ostracizing them by moving them to places that are less intrusive to our lives, so that they are out of sight,” the petitioner wrote. The petition has received more than 11,000 signatures, and will be delivered to Property Partners, the company that owns the building, and to London Mayor Boris Johnson.
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David Wilcock/PA Wire/Press Association Images
PHOTO: A couple walk passed metal spikes in the ground outside 118 Southwark Bridge Road, London, after Mayor Boris Johnson weighed into the row about the spikes, which were installed to prevent homeless people sleeping outside a London building.

Johnson has tweeted out a message urging the developer to remove the inch-high studs. "Spikes outside Southwark housing development to deter rough sleeping are ugly, self defeating & stupid," the message read. Councilor Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, tweeted out: “All homeless people in Southwark should be treated with respect and compassion- not spikes. I hope they will be removed from Swk Br Rd.” Not all citizens were against this metal studs. Twitter user @asajoseph tweeted "How are they self-defeating? What else can private owners do to prevent invasion of their property?"
Tesco, the parent company of Property Partners, denied the studs were aimed at homeless people. In a statement to the Telegraph, the company said, The studs were put in place to try and stop people engaging in anti-social behaviour like smoking or drinking outside our store, which can be intimidating for our customers.”

According to Crisis, a national charity for homeless people in the U.K., more than 2,000 homeless people slept on the streets in England on any night during 2013. In 2012-2013, over 113,000 households applied to their local authority for homelessness assistance.

Yeah, this has been an issue in Britain for a long time.
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Pay to use park bench. Brilliant!!!
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This one? eh. It's private property.
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Not only do they not want you to sleep, but god forbid you actually want to sit for a fucking minute.
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The frosted glass isn't enough to block the view evidently.
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Google it. The images don't end.
Fortunately it's been going on so long it's starting to swing the other way.
 

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Tude

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Wow - just wow!!! I guess I shall put them into the category of the spikes they put on building awnings to keep the pigeons from sitting there. Nice.
 

drewski

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What a stupid tactic. All this will do is force someone to find somewhere else to sleep, which will just piss some other asshole off that doesn't have a heart. So basically it's just pissing off twice as many people by doing this. There's nothing positive or logical about it.
 

Matt Derrick

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we've covered this before... fortunately there are a few rare folks out there that are going out with sledgehammers and smashing to spikes... but not nearly enough.
 
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Tude

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we've covered this before... fortunately there are a few rare folks out there that are going out with sledgehammers and smashing to spikes... but not nearly enough.
Kinda thought so - must not have quoted the correct words on the search here. Still frosts me though. I'll leave it a bit and take it down.
 

wanderwhy

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shit makes me sick. How can the banks live with themselves with it being so cold tonight and knowing that there are more vacant homes than homeless people? Can we not look to the countless studies that prove housing the homeless is actually more effective and economical than criminalizing them, sending them to prisons, constantly cycling them through temporary shelters etc? I truly believe people do not want to solve homelessness. They prefer to have them around to have something to point to that makes them feel better about their own situations.. Too many act as if the least fortunate of our society are somehow hurting them. "if you are not careful the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing" -Malcolm X
 
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Kim Chee

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shit makes me sick. How can the banks live with themselves with it being so cold tonight and knowing that there are more vacant homes than homeless people?
If I made the laws I would tax the shit out of owners of vacant buildings who did not let them be used by social programs.

On topic: many of these spikes can be thwarted by layers of cardboard or plywood...minor inconvenience.
 

Odin

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This is an obvious but subtle sign of the sickness in society. The privilege and ownership class.

Being a Star Trek fan I once quoted Voyager.
My people taught me a man does not own land. He doesn't own anything but the courage and loyalty in his heart. – Chakotay, 2372
If people thought like this. Then those spikes and contortions set up to discourage someone from simply taking a rest would never happen.
I hate living in a metro area.
I've grown up in the metro area. And Although I am late in starting to interact with the radical communities.
I have always always despised suburban and metro house ownership. (recall always hearing parents conflict on home... property taxes... and after they're divorce the fight to see who keeps said properties... )
So ever since a kid. I have never wanted to own a home or property in a populated area... or even maybe at all.
This is why vandwelling... and radical living in communes and farm coops perhaps... are in my opinion so much more.
A better way of life.
 

Anagor

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My people taught me a man does not own land. He doesn't own anything but the courage and loyalty in his heart. – Chakotay, 2372
Yes. Nice quote.
My favorite Star Trek quote:
You know, there are some words I've known since I was a schoolboy. "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.
-- Cpt. Jean-Luc Picard (Episode The Drumhead)
 

Anagor

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I've grown up in the metro area. And Although I am late in starting to interact with the radical communities.
I have always always despised suburban and metro house ownership. (recall always hearing parents conflict on home... property taxes... and after they're divorce the fight to see who keeps said properties... )
So ever since a kid. I have never wanted to own a home or property in a populated area... or even maybe at all.
This is why vandwelling... and radical living in communes and farm coops perhaps... are in my opinion so much more.
A better way of life.
I've grown up in a rural area and despite living in a large city for one year as a kid (age 10), I always lived in more or less rural areas. I like cities. :)
Not necessarily real large cities like London, but medium size ones.

I think every location has its pros and cons.
 

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