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.


The Future is Prefabricated

Prefabricated construction is in its infancy but with increasing demand on tradition construction and speed and sustainability benefits of prefabrication, could this new manufacturing industry change the way Australia builds?

The collapse of Australia’s automotive manufacturing industry has been devastating, with up to 40,000 workers estimated to ultimately lose their jobs.

Yet with a rapidly growing population and cranes dotting our city skylines, a new manufacturing industry is on the cusp of a boom: prefabricated construction.

Image: article supplied

Researchers at the University of Melbourne are looking at how this burgeoning industry can provide safe, affordable and sustainable housing, while also offering the opportunity for former automotive manufacturing workers to transfer their skills.

The Melbourne School of Engineering is leading a new push to grow the prefabricated sector’s market share within the construction industry from 5 per cent to 15 per cent by 2025, contributing to around 20,000 new jobs and $30 billion of growth. They are supporting this research with large scale testing and training facilities at their recently announced new campus, to be built at Fishermans Bend.

Professor Tuan Ngo, Research Director of the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing in Prefabricated Housing and the Asia-Pacific Research Network for Resilient and Affordable Housing, leads much of this work.

He says Australia has a lot to learn from European countries like Sweden, where prefabricated modular housing makes up 70 per cent of the construction industry.

Extreme weather, in particular long cold winters, can make building outside difficult there, so prefabricated components are created in manufacturing plants instead.

Why prefab in Australia?

Professor Ngo says supply is unable to meet increasing demand in the traditional Australian construction sector. Meanwhile, costs are rising, contributing to the housing affordability crisis affecting many Australians struggling to buy their first homes.

This was originally published by Architecture AU.

Click here to read the entire article.

How Kid-Friendly Urban Design Makes Cities Better For All

Promoting urban planning projects often relies on an inspiring narrative: what are we as a community trying to accomplish, and how do we want our neighborhoods to evolve? Few stories are as universal as building a better future for our children. But in urban design, it’s too often a tale untold.

A new research report focused on child-first urban planning, Cities Alive: Designing for Urban Childhoods, argues that designing for children can be the anchor and central theme animating a larger progressive urban agenda. Written by the international engineering, planning, and consulting firm Arup, the report offers numerous case studies, sobering statistics—such as the fact that 1 billion children live in urban settings right now—and visions for tackling what they see as the main hurdles to more youth-friendly metropolises: traffic and pollution, high-rise living and sprawl, crime, isolation and intolerance, and unequal, inadequate access to the city’s benefits.

How kid-friendly urban design makes cities better for all
Image: article supplied

Most importantly, it suggests a child-friendly lens can help leaders, planners, and designers envision a better city for everyone, one that offers a wealth of social benefits (society gains $8 in benefits for every $1 spent on early play-based education, according to a University College London study).

“Perhaps uniquely, a child‐friendly approach has the potential to unite a range of progressive agendas—including health and wellbeing, sustainability, resilience and safety—and to act as a catalyst for urban innovation,” the report notes.

Many sweeping, and optimistic, modern movements to change metro design focused on children. From the Garden City movement to the post-war suburban boom, updated living environments have often been sold with a promise of healthier living environments for our kids.

But today, urban environmental and health issues are increasingly on the rise, a crises when experts believe that by 2030, 60 percent of all city dwellers will be under the age of 18. The World Health Organization estimates that the number of overweight children globally will skyrocket to 70 million by 2025, from 41 million in 2016, and rates of childhood mental health problems, triggered by the stress of urban life, is also on the rise.

To reverse these trends, Cities Alive proposes a combination of parks, play, equitable planning, and making nature more prevalent. Cars, specifically the amount of real estate given over to roads and vehicles, presents a big problem. This infrastructure often form borders between children and freer access to playspaces, and limits other mobility options.

This was originally published by Curbed.

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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.


What’s Next for Melbourne: Victorian Planning Authority Urban Renewal Director Emily Mottram Looks at the Big Picture

Emily Mottram practices what she preaches. The city planner is an enthusiastic inner-city dweller. She likes to walk to work and seldom uses her car.

“My son gets excited when he gets into the car because it happens so rarely he thinks it’s a special occasion,” she says, laughingly.

Mottram is the director of urban renewal at the Victorian Planning Authority, the government body that looks after the big-picture planning for the state and she focuses on inner-city projects.

Coincidentally she was one of the pioneers of CBD living and moved into Majorca Building on Flinders Lane in the 1990s.

“Melbourne is such a magical, amazing place to live – it’s so diverse and fantastic.”

She now lives in North Carlton and feels like the city’s parks, gardens and museums are in her backyard.

“It’s a city of hidden gems – all the work around the laneways that the City of Melbourne has done so well in terms of reframing the city is fantastic.”

Working in the VPA offices at the top of Collins Street means that Mottram knows all the best places for coffee. Walking down Flinders Lane, she peers into Cumulus Inc – too busy – then ducks into Tom Thumb cafe for a chat.

Photo: article supplied

The city planner reveals she had a very urban upbringing, growing up in a London terrace house in the 1970s. She remembers idyllic childhood days playing outside in the terrace’s triangular communal garden.

Her dad was an architect who often brought her along to see his work. Later on, the family lived in Oman for eight years when her dad was converting a fort into a museum.

Not surprisingly, Mottram developed an interest in cities and buildings and decided to study social and environmental planning when she moved to Melbourne.

“I was very passionate about environmental issues,” she says.

Her first job was as a social planner for Hobsons Bay City Council, then on the edge of Melbourne, where she oversaw the development of the Seabrook Community Centre.

“The city I came to in the mid ’80s has changed so dramatically,” she says.

She returned to the UK in the early 2000s to provide advice to councils on redeveloping public housing estates.

“When I flew in the last time to Gatwick Airport, I could see out of the window of the plane part of the city that I had a hand in.”

One of the difficult things about working as a planner is that it takes so long before you see your projects completed, she says.

This was originally published by Domain.

Click here to read the entire article.

Hear Emily Mottram speak at the 2017 International Urban Design Conference this November!

Secure your seat now!