15 Examples of 'Anti-Homeless' Hostile Architecture That You Probably Never Noticed Before

How many of these have you seen around your city?

15 Examples of 'Anti-Homeless' Hostile Architecture That You Probably Never Noticed Before
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Recent years have seen a movement of people documenting and criticizing what they call hostile design, hostile architecture or defensive design. This refers to design features implemented into city and town planning which were created specifically to deter homeless people from finding somewhere to sleep.

Design

This Moveable Structure Made Out Of Buckets Carries A Vital Message

It's one of those things that once it's pointed out, you start seeing it everywhere. Here are just a few of the most common examples of hostile design to look out for in your city.

1. Slanted Benches: More Than Just an Uncomfortable Seat

You might've noticed slanted benches at train stations or bus stops, and been baffled by how uncomfortable they are to sit on. The sad truth is that they're specifically designed this way to make them impossible to sleep on. 

Benches have always been a go-to for homeless people looking to rest, and to combat this, cities have made benches as uncomfortable as possible while still serving their basic purpose.

Metro stop bench is tilted so attempting to lay down ends up with you sliding off. from r/HostileArchitecture

2. Armrests on Benches: They're Not For Your Arms

While on the surface these armrests seem innocuous, they're again a feature that's been designed to stop people from sleeping on benches. The armrests prevent people from lying across benches, making them impossible to sleep on.

Armrests for comfort. Totally not to stop homeless people lying down... from r/HostileArchitecture

3. Rocky Pavements: The Reason Behind Unusual Paving

If you see a smooth section of pavement abruptly transition into coarse rocks, it's probably because someone is trying to stop people from sleeping or begging on that area of the street.

You'll likely notice this feature under awnings or other shelters, where people would most typically try to take refuge.

4. Spiked Windowsills: Not Just For the Birds

Windows and walls have been spiked in cities for some time now, usually to deter birds from roosting on them. However, many windowsills at ground level are being spiked now too, this time to deter people from sitting or sheltering under the awnings of windows.

5. Segmented Benches: An Unusual Design With a Purpose

Benches with imprints or concave grooves to designate where people can sit have become popular across cities recently. As with other modifications to benches on this list, the driving force behind this design choice is to make sleeping on benches impossible.

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6. Street Spikes: A Stark Message to Those Sleeping Rough

In addition to stones and rocks, certain areas have been installing spikes into their pavements as a deterrent against homeless people looking for a spot to sleep. These spikes are usually made of concrete or metal, and are placed in or near doorways, under bridges, and other sheltered areas.

7. Awning Gaps: Not a Flaw, But a Design Choice

Think that gap in a store's awning is a flaw? You might be wrong. In many cases, this gap is a deliberate design choice to withhold shelter from those seeking it. It's subtle, but it's just another example of the crack-down against people sleeping on the streets.

8. Curved and Slanted Benches: Purposely Uncomfortable

Like the other benches on this list, benches that curve around and/or have their seats slanted are deliberate attempts to stop homeless people from sleeping rough. Because they prevent people from reclining fully, they're virtually impossible to sleep or sit comfortably on.

9. Barred Corners: Shutting Out Loiterers and Others

Not even corners are safe from the influence of hostile design. You might come across corners which are barred or fenced off, to prevent people from begging, loitering, or sheltering there. 

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10. Street Dividers: Pushing the Homeless Off the Streets

Foliage is always a welcome sight in the city, but these planters aren't always what they appear to be. What looks like a refreshing flash of green in an otherwise concrete jungle can often be an attempt to push homeless people away from the sheltered side of the street.

By directing traffic towards sheltered areas with the aid of dividers, the homeless are left without a clear patch of ground to sleep on.

11. Raised Grate Covers: Not Just an Abstract Design

This might look like an abstract sculpture, but in reality, it's been constructed to stop people from sleeping on the grate. Often during colder weather, homeless people will seek out vents and grates to sleep on because of the warmth they release. 

The placement of structures like these prevents homeless people from sleeping on grates and staying warm during the Winter.

12. Tiered Seating: Just Try Sleeping on These

Similar to benches, tiered public seating like this are designed specifically to deter those who are looking for somewhere to sleep.

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Thanks to the tiered structure, it's impossible to stretch out and get comfortable enough to rest.

13. Fenced Grates: Withholding Heat

Like the structure seen earlier on this list, fenced grates are also an attempt to stop homeless people from huddling around them for warmth in cold weather. Grates are popular in the Winter, as they're some of the few areas of warmth homeless people can find when the temperature drops.

14. Retractable Spikes: Hidden in Plain Sight

Perhaps you've seen metal discs level with the pavement outside certain establishments. Chances are they're retractable spikes, which can be pushed up at night to prevent people from sleeping outside the premises. 

This allows establishments to appear open and welcoming during the day, without making shoppers uncomfortable with the sight of defensive design.

15. Boulders Under Bridges: Making Rough Sleeping Rougher

Bridges provide large amounts of shelter, and thus are popular spots for people who find themselves sleeping rough. In order to combat the number of people sleeping under bridges, many cities will place large stones or boulders, covering the pavement.

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This leaves only the roads clear, with no safe area for homeless people to sleep.

The problem with hostile architecture is that it doesn't aim to address the crisis of homelessness. All it achieves is making life harder for those already struggling. Forcing people to find other places to sleep won't solve the issue of homelessness. Now that you're aware of these structures, see how many of them you recognize in your own city. 

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