Design crimes: How ‘hostile architecture’ is quietly hurting our cities

It would be hard to find a more blatant and unapologetic attempt to deter loiterers than the Camden Bench — a seemingly innocuous piece of brutalist urban architecture, hidden in plain sight on the streets of London.

Installed by Camden’s local council in 2012, according to UK-based artist Stuart Semple, the benches are the best example of the worst kind of urban design.

“It’s basically a big ugly concrete bench … It’s kind of like its designers are proud of the fact that it’s anti-everything,” he says.

As critic Frank Swain put it, the Camden Bench is the “perfect anti-object” — a largely featureless lump of concrete that is just curved enough, just angled enough and sufficiently solid to deter extended interaction of any kind.

These benches used in Camden are designed to prevent people from getting too comfortable.

“The Camden Bench is a concerted effort to create a non-object … a strange kind of architectural null point,” Mr Swain says.

Despite its imposing concrete brutality, the Camden Bench is in fact one of the more subtle instances of what’s known as “hostile architecture” — a kind of urban design intended to control, coerce and often prohibit interaction and social relations in public space.

Hostile architecture takes many forms, from the overt and aggressive, like metal bars on park benches and anti-homeless spikes, to the seemingly innocuous, such as benches mounted just a little too high, to make lingering uncomfortable.

But if, as urban sociologist Robert Park wrote, in making the city we make ourselves, one might wonder what collective self-conception has produced a city covered in metal spikes, illuminated by blue lights, buzzing with high-frequencies — paranoid, anxious and hostile, by design.

 With his artwork, Semple aims to break down the barriers that impede social life. His latest campaign, calling on people to photograph and share examples of what he calls “design crimes”, is an attempt to document the impact this kind of design has on our urban landscape.

“Very slowly, bus stops get perches so you can’t really sit on them, spikes appear [and] there’s a lot more sound being used now,” Semple says.

“Some councils are actually playing frequencies that are targeted at young people’s ears and it stops teenagers congregating.

“When we talk about hostile design, hostile architecture, make no mistake — there are groups of people spending time, effort and money commissioning this stuff and designing it to be as brutal as possible against human beings.”

“We know this from architecture history — if you start making things look ugly, uninviting, hostile and dangerous, those places start to become like that.”

Who has a right to the city?

The use of disciplinary architecture in public space is nothing new.

It has long been used to control, manipulate and police the ways in which public space is used and the forms of interaction and sociality that are possible within it.

Its use, however, as an instrument for urban segregation — to separate those entitled to access public space from those deemed undesirable — is a growing phenomenon.

“It’s a symptom of a deeper malaise in the way cities are used,” urban designer Malcolm Mackay says.

“Historically, defensive architecture was used to deal with the enemy without — the marauding hordes coming over the horizon, knocking at the city gates and trying to get in.”

Today, he says, that anxiety has been turned inwards.

This shift has accompanied a radical redefinition of public space, one that has seen common ownership transferred to ownership by strata companies or large corporations.

Originally Published by ABC News, continue reading here.


Realising New Knowledge for Cities From Event Based Legacy – a Gold Coast Case Study

Mr Peter Edwards,  Director, Archipelago & Past President Urban Design Alliance Queensland is a Keynote Speaker at this year’s International Urban Design Conference, discussing “Citymaking games: realising new knowledge for cities from event based legacy – a Gold Coast case study”.

Peter Edwards

Secure your seat today to hear Peter speak!

The base building work for the major legacy of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth GamesTM – the Commonwealth Games Village – is complete.

There is no doubt that this is an important moment in the history of the Gold Coast. Cities are often made from important moments, events that create step change; leaps forward.  On the Gold Coast, we are leveraging the moment using infrastructure as a catalyst to create a step change for the city. Part of that is a platform for a stronger entry into the new knowledge economy, the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.

This citymaking strategy has been in play for some time with its fruits recently realised. Why now? How? And what should we be doing moving forward? How do we win at the game of making cities through seeing, and seizing, the moment.

A discussion on the potential of event based legacy as a catalyst for new knowledge infrastructure demonstrated through the case study of the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct.

This Conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures.

Register for the 2017 International Urban Design Conference here.


Reclaiming the Street: A Decade of Recreating America’s Streets and the ‘Sadik-Khan’ Effect

Be inspired by innovations and projects that are transforming cities this November at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference.

Ms Rebecca Finn, Urban Designer Tract will be discussing “Reclaiming the street: A decade of recreating America’s streets and the ‘sadik-khan’ effect”.

In 2007, in response to decades of car-centric planning, New York City’s Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan led change that completely reimagined the city’s streets and drastically improved conditions for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the city.

Rebecca Finn

The most notable project was in Times Square where large swathes of the street were turned into a pedestrian plaza and blocks of Broadway were closed to traffic. The changes happened quickly and the materials were inexpensive. In a stroke of brilliance, New York City Department of Transportation referred to this one and the many other similar projects as ‘pilot projects’.

If they proved not to work they could be removed and the street could easily be returned to its former state. But, for the most part the changes did work. Times Square and other initiatives, including the miles of new dedicated bike lanes have now been turned into permanent features and the public realm in New York City has been transformed.

What Janette Sadik-Khan and her team did in New York City was admirable, but the nation-wide phenomenon that followed is nothing short of incredible. Similar projects popped up all around the country. The mood was euphoric in transportation and design circles. The concept of streets as places solely for the automobile was finally being seriously challenged. While the idea of trying to improve streets wasn’t new, the speed of delivery was. The ‘pop-up’, ‘temporary’, ‘pilot’ culture had arrived. A decade on, this culture has made a huge impact on city streets both around the country and around the world.

In particular, this presentation examines how streets have been reimagined in Los Angeles as a result of this movement. Los Angeles has long been the poster child for the car-centric city, but this image has been seriously challenged over the last decade. Three projects that show this change will be showcased: CicLAvia (LA’s car-free streets program), MyFigueroa (Figueroa Street Streetscape Project) and Sunset Triangle Plaza.

This Conference is an opportunity for design professionals to exchange ideas and experiences, to be creative and visionary and to contribute to redesigning our urban futures.

Register for the 2017 International Urban Design Conference here.

Design Smart: Achieving High Quality Design Through Collaborative Processes

Mr Omar Barragan, Manager of Urban Design at Brisbane City Council will be attending this year’s International Urban Design Conference, discussing “Design smart: achieving high quality design through collaborative processes”.

As Brisbane grows as a New World City, the aim is to achieve a responsive subtropical design that speaks on behalf of the city – design that demonstrates the best elements of living in Subtropical Brisbane.

Omar Barragan

Brisbane needs exemplary projects that respond to an embrace our subtropical climate and showcase our city’s urban character and outdoor lifestyle. To achieve this strategic goal Brisbane City Council has created a new initiative that seeks ways to partner with the development industry and key stakeholders.

The Design SMART service is intended to be a pre-lodgement service from the initiation/inception phase of significant development projects. Council officers attend multiple pre-lodgment meetings and work with applicants to review the design opportunities and constraints of a site and to discuss how these might inform the development of the concept design for the site.

There are two key of differences in this process that set apart Brisbane’s approach to other cities. The first is the high level policy guidance provided by the recently adopted document, ‘ New World City Design Guide: Buildings that Breathe’. This forward thinking guide illustrates how residential and commercial buildings in the city centre, mixed use inner city, transport corridors and principal regional activity centres should be designed to respond to our subtropical climate and improve sustainability. This gives clarity to the industry on the expected three dimensional built outcomes for the city.

The second is the direct involvement from the initial stages of the city’s Independent Design Advisory Panel (IDAP). This panel provides Council with independent advice on design, quality, sustainability and appropriateness of strategies and projects of importance to Brisbane’s future growth. In this way, Design SMART facilitates direct feedback from industry-based professionals, real world advice, to developers from early stages of the design process.

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

Secure your seat and register today!

Translating Policy to Place: Planning High Quality Precincts in the World’s Most Liveable City

The 10th International Urban Design Conference will be held at Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland from Monday 13 – Tuesday 14 November 2017.

Emily Mottram, Director of Urban Renewal at Victorian Planning Authority is a keynote speaker at this year’s Conference, presenting “Translating policy to place – planning high quality precincts in the world’s most liveable city”.

Emily Mottram

Melbourne trades on its legacy of good planning by the Victorians and its title of the world’s most liveable city. It is also experiencing record breaking population growth, economic restructuring and climate change. Infrastructure investment is reshaping and reframing the city as we know it.

There is a strong policy basis set out through Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 to focus 70% of residential growth into established areas. The Victorian Planning Authority is working in precincts across Melbourne to translate this policy intent into high quality place based outcomes. A key challenge is to achieve exemplary contextual design to ensure we have a social licence to act.

This presentation will use a series of case studies from inner and middle Melbourne to reflect upon the opportunities and evolving tools for precinct renewal.

This year the International Urban Design Conference offers optional tours available on Wednesday 15 November. These will include visiting two of the precincts that have been designed and built for the 2018 Commonwealth Games held on the Gold Coast in April 2018.

Find out more here.