The father of the most hostile piece of street furniture in world history explains why he thinks he's right to make life harder for homeless people and socializing kids


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/07/out-of-sight-and-mind.html


#2

Anybody got any doubt about his support for the likes of the hostile piece of trash in the white house

Edit afterthought. I hope he finds a time in life where he will need to pause comfortably in a public space and finds only his hateful “furniture” to rest on.


#3

“I find it difficult to think why anyone would want to sleep on a bench. It’s no place for anyone to spend the night.”

For someone who probably considers himself a creative genius he displays an amazing lack of imagination.


#4

Someone who thinks five minutes is the longest you might need to wait for a bus has never used public transportation.

ETA: It’s bad enough that there’s someone who thinks hostile design is a good idea, but it’s even worse that cities keep buying it.


#5

Honestly, though, do you think calling out this one designer is going to help improve our social landscape? He has not been tasked with designing affordable housing, or to rework zoning to make affordable housing more feasible, or restructure lending laws to curb illegal predatory behavior by banks, or… (any of the other ways to monetize this basic human need)

I have seen some amazing architectural achievements, and clearly, humanity is capable of building enough shelter to house all of us.

The architecture that no one seems to understand, is creating markets that don’t penalize their weakest players.

I’ve noticed that a “circular firing squad” seems inevitable whenever a complaint is lodged at someone who (should be) listening, rather than someone with the power to make the change.

As a designer of street furniture, you’d expect this guy to be listening… But homeless people don’t have a lot of money to go hiring people like this.

The real story here, is not about this designer, it’s about the people who have hired him. And maybe it should be about the other, not-yet-famous designers who are paying attention to real human needs, rather than corporate needs.


#6

When someone pitches a tent to wait for a movie ticket, there’s a pretty well defined end point to their presence. If you let a homeless person do it, they’ll be there until they’re chased off.

It’s not very nice, but are you opening your wallet (or even sidewalk) to solve the problem?


#7

This kind of thing just makes me sad. It’s just another kind of enclosure of the public space away from the people as a whole.


#8

Right. The problem isn’t the benches, the problem is that there’s a perceived need for them.


#9

Exactly. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. He designed and sold that bench because the powers that be wanted it, and if he didn’t design it someone else would have.


#10

This is a ongoing debate in the architecture community… Lots of firms explicitly will not design things like prisons, etc. That’s good on one hand, but there’s also an argument that these firms should engage in some undesirable projects so that they might positively improve the lives of those affected by otherwise poor design.

I agree with you to a point; if this person didn’t take the bench job, someone else probably would have… But there is such a thing as having a design philosophy- this guy is clearly on one end of the scale, willing to support corporate interests over humanist values… If architects took a Hippocratic oath or something maybe nobody would be willing to participate in such a design goal. Just because “someone else would do it” doesn’t really give you complete cover for your actions…


#11

When cities spend taxpayer money on hostile architecture that’s intended to make life difficult for the homeless rather than actually dealing with the causes of homelessness then, yes, I have opened my wallet. And I’ve tried to get city officials to address the causes rather than continuing to rely on unpleasant, and often expensive, measures that do nothing but make life even more difficult for the homeless.

Chasing away homeless people doesn’t solve the problem. It merely moves it somewhere else.


#12

Example of hostile street (or park furniture), historical edition:

… and in Japan, these are sad considering how much engineering, embodied energy and cost went into making and installing them:

http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?at_code=364447

… similarly, in “Europe” and posted in 2006, this:
http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=&no=293800&rel_no=1&back_url=

Somehow humanity gets it right, counterexamples:

… and in a art-student statement-y way, Sarah Ross cleverly offers this:
http://www.insecurespaces.net/archisuits.html

The “keep moving, nothing to see here folks” dynamic that city “planners” inflict on human bodies–all human bodies, housed or unhoused–is part of the mercilessness, pitilessness we see made real with hostile street furniture.

Austin is by no means immune. I’ve watch its urban core and bus stops slowly convert to defensive urban architecture for over a decade. These choices are made by people, against people, funded by sales tax money paid by people. Ouch.


#13

Collaborators who accept value from principals are just as guilty as the principals. They are partners with the principals Those that delivered people to concentration camps are just as guilty as those who designed the the camps and turned on the gas. If you ‘knowingly aid’ evil, you are evil. Or am I missing something? I suppose you could argue he despicable things well.


#14

Never heard of “rough sleeping” before. You can turn it around, too; “sleeping rough”. Interesting. Why does the sleeping have to be qualified with “rough”? If someone is sleeping in a doorway, that’s pretty much all you have to say about that.


#15

As “wake up and smell the homeless” is an everyday event in most urban centers, I welcome efforts to minimize the effects of urban camping by transients. However, designers, architects and city planners could do better by incorporating structures or larger design solutions. But, alas, money.

Yes. A tax paying public. A public whose efforts have paid for those “public” spaces and upkeep. When the tax paying public has to wade thru filth to get to work or hold their noses as they stroller their children thru puddles of urine they are inclined to request measures to keep their parks free of human detritus.

Affluent urban campers have no problem finding facilities to piss or shit in while homeless are shunned from bathrooms and other establishments and end up polluting the streets. Affluent urban campers will move on after getting their coveted iPhone X while the homeless camper may or may not leave. Police beatings and arrests are (over)reacting from a knee jerk response from tax paying citizens screaming to keep their city clean. That doesn’t make it right.


#16

"I’d been walkaway for nearly a year before I understood this. That’s what walkaway is – not walking out on ‘society,’ but acknowledging that in zottaworld, we’re problems to be solved, not citizens. That’s why you never hear politicians talking about ‘citizens,’ it’s all ‘taxpayers,’ as though the salient fact of your relationship to the state is how much you pay. Like the state was a business and citizenship was a loyalty program that rewarded you for your custom with roads and health care. Zottas cooked the process so they get all the money and own the political process, pay as much or as little tax as they want. Sure, they pay most of the tax, because they’ve built a set of rules that gives them most of the money. Talking about ‘taxpayers’ means that the state’s debt is to rich dudes, and anything it gives to kids or old people or sick people or disabled people is charity we should be grateful for, since none of those people are paying tax that justifies their rewards from Government Inc.


#17

People have been designing things like this for most of the 20th century. I can recall how uncomfortable the wooden seating was in Union Station in Washington DC back around 1960 (there was an odd hump about where your femurs meet your knees) when I was a lad and my parents explaining it was to keep people from coming in and sleeping on the benches since places like that tended to be open 24/7 back when trains were still a major thing in the US. From pictures, the seating probably dated back to at least WW2.

I’d rather have uncomfortable seats than none. The city I live in has had to remove the bus benches downtown because they were 100% taken over by the homeless for camping, “recreational” drug use and drinking parties. (And urinals by those who couldn’t be bothered to at least find an alley.)

The public libraries in many cities have removed all the comfortable seating and put in straight stiff chairs because they too got tired of being used as a homeless shelter the moment they opened their doors and the place would be taken over so genuine patrons of the library could not find a place to sit because every chair and couch had its occupant snoring away or simply camping out. (What the homeless aren’t doing, in large part, as far as I can tell, is using the library to get an education and maybe fix their problems.)

Every European train station I have been on and that’s a lot, have seating designed not to be slept in so it’s not a modern “Trump” thing. (Now there’s someone I’d like to see homeless but not at the cost of having Pence rule us.)

You can be anti-abuse of public spaces/facilities and not be pro-Trump.


#18

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#19

I’d say collaborating in deathcamps is a pretty hard line, and thankfully not a one that many designers have to consider in their lifetimes. That said, I do think there are degrees of culpability and unfortunately, people disagree about what ‘evil’ means. And when the case is less cut-and-dry than things like deathcamps, people disagree even more. Shit is hard.


#20

Just install these.
“Hey homeless person, bugger off !!”

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(always amazed how nonchalant and combative the home owners are in those commercials)