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How Aggressive Architecture Designs the Homeless Out of the Public Realm

How Aggressive Architecture Designs the Homeless Out of the Public Realm

In recent years, the architectural community has become heavily involved, in both positive and negative ways, with the chronic global issue of homelessness. In response, James Furzer of UK-based Spatial Design Architects has undertaken a photographic analysis exploring defensive forms of urban design. Using the typology of public benches in London, Furzer documents public fixtures which act as deterrents to rough sleepers, essentially denying a right to the city for those who ultimately have no choice but to be there.

East India bench, London. Image © James Furzer Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer Bench outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London. Image © James Furzer Canary Wharf Station bench, London. Image © James Furzer + 12

Reveal bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Reveal bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Camden bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Camden bench, London. Image © James Furzer

Using the public benches of London as a photographic subject, Furzer reveals an underlying deterrent quality which may remain unnoticed by the everyday user. In particular, he documents the "Camden bench," an award-winning public piece of street furniture commissioned by the London Borough of Camden, whose design ethos was to influence the public and restrict undesirable behavior. Formed of exposed concrete and a steel frame, the bench’s angular shape creates an uncomfortable base to deter rough sleepers. As Furzer explains:

Canary Wharf Station bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Canary Wharf Station bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Bench outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London. Image © James Furzer
Bench outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London. Image © James Furzer

There is a need for architecture and public space to address the physical issue of rough sleeping and homelessness. Examples of benches such as the Camden bench, and the benches directly outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, show a lack of designer’s duties being undertaken, hidden behind the noted façade of functionality.

Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer

Furzer’s photographic analysis sits within a broader context of urban fixtures designed to deter rough sleeping. As argued by Guardian writer Alex Andreou, an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality within both British and other western policy-making has resulted in fixtures such as the now-infamous "anti-homeless spikes" outside buildings, and pavement sprinklers which deter prolonged occupation.

East India bench, London. Image © James Furzer
East India bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Tower Hill bench, London. Image © James Furzer

Evidently, we must now contend with a reality that, in societies claiming to be democratic, free, and accountable, items as accessible as a public bench are used as a tool to unseat our cities’ most vulnerable inhabitants.

Thames bench, London. Image © James Furzer
Thames bench, London. Image © James Furzer

News via: Spatial Design Architects.

Defensive Architecture Creates Unlivable Cities

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Cite: Niall Patrick Walsh. "How Aggressive Architecture Designs the Homeless Out of the Public Realm" 24 Feb 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/866998/how-aggressive-architecture-designs-the-homeless-out-of-the-public-realm/> ISSN 0719-8884
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Bench outside St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Image © James Furzer

攻击性公共建筑设计,把无家可归者赶出公共区域

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