Anti-Homeless Architecture

Claire McNeme, J1 Guest Writer

Anti-homeless Architecture 

By: Claire McNeme, J1 Guest Writer

 Anti-Homeless architecture, also known as hostile architecture, is described in an article by CNN as “ a controversial type of urban design usually aimed at preventing people from using public spaces in undesirable ways”. The most obvious examples are spikes, specialty-shaped benches, rocks and boulders under bridges, etc. 


The purpose of this specific type of “art” is to deter the homeless from sleeping on the benches outside businesses in order to convey the idea of a high-end business and be more enticing to customers. Due to many of these locations being private properties owned by businesses, the city can’t legally make the businesses remove the furniture.


Although these designs are horrible for the homeless, the adjusted seating options do provide more benefit to the city, by preventing drug drops, the damage created by skaters, and space-saving. When designers of these pieces of furniture are interviewed, and the concept of the anti-homeless aspect of their designs, they say that they understand the businesses want to remove the homeless from outside their shops, but that if the business wants to take away a place for someone in need to sleep, then they need to create a welcoming place for them to go instead. 


We can even see some examples of this architecture in Austin, Texas. Julian Reyes, interviewed in an article written by The Texas Observer, says: “It’s 100-something degrees in Texas; it’s super easy to get dizzy or just tired from the heat here and you have to lay down,” said Reyes, who is 49 and said he’s been homeless for five or six years. “But you can’t even lay on these benches, you have to lay down on the ground. … When I see those benches that are impossible to lay down on and those bolts on the ground, all I see is a crime.”


This is a morality issue that no one quite knows the solution to. You can understand the business side of the argument because they lose customers because they are being made uncomfortable by the homeless lingering outside, but we know that this type of architecture is simply pushing the homeless away, rather than solving the issue.