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Defensive architecture

Posted by
02 Mar 2015
There has been a lot in the press recently about defensive architecture, and more locally, the 'anti homeless spikes' that were installed outside the Selfridges in Manchester City Centre. Selfridges have maintained that the spikes were installed to deter their staff from smoking in those areas, however it has been widely perceived as an inhumane tactic discourage homeless people sleeping there. However, after having received a lot of attention in the press, and a petition signed by thousands, the store has now committed to removing the spikes. Make of it what you will, whether the intention was good or bad it has highlighted an issue that is slowly taking over city centres all over the world. 

Other examples of defensive architecture include spikes on window ledges, bus shelter seats that lean forwards and horrible, aggressive metal benches that have dividers to prevent people from laying down. Public spaces are becoming less and less public friendly and as one person put it "urban spaces are aggressively rejecting soft, human bodies”. In China, the space under motorways and flyovers is occupied by concrete spikes, rendering that public space completely useless as a shelter.

Other than the obvious physical discomfort that this type of architecture creates, and how unsightly it is, perhaps the most important thing to consider is the affect this has mentally on those who are homeless. Ocean Howell, an architectural history teacher says "When you're designed against, you know it…Other people might not see it, but you will. The message is clear: you are not a member of the public, at least not of the public that is welcome here.”

The impact that 'defensive architecture' is having is devastating. From the psychological effects to the obnoxious designs, it feels as though the implementation of these schemes (which is always very stealth) creates a negative and hostile environment not only to the vulnerable, but to everyone in society. I hope that the removal of the spikes from outside Selfridges is just the beginning of organisations considering the impact of their actions.

What do you think? Were Selfridges right to remove the spikes? Let me know your thoughts...

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