Hostile Architecture 

hostile architecture


Hostile architecture is also known as defensive architecture. With an emphasis on homeless individuals and their association with public spaces like bus stops, benches, parks, etc., this type of design primarily uses tactics to dissuade various sorts of public conduct. Another activity that is commonly discussed is street skating. The same goes for teenage loitering.

Although the concept of hostile architecture is not new, there is currently substantial discussion. Some critics claim that it replaces public spaces with private or “pseudo-public” spaces where defying social norms is forbidden.

Others contend that its use exacerbates and reinforces already-existing societal divides.

Techniques used 

The development of an architecture that specifically caters to vulnerable populations like the homeless is not a recent phenomenon, but there does seem to be a growing awareness of the negative effects that such design trends have on social injustice and a growing sentiment among the general aspect of contemporary urban life.

Anti-homeless spikes outside apartment buildings, bars in the middle of park benches to prevent people from sleeping there, benches with graffiti-resistant sloped surfaces to discourage skating, curved bases on benches to prevent lying down, and window sill ledges with anti-loitering spikes are a few examples of innovative tactics used to combat homelessness.

Such design features, which are being overused, are explicitly directed toward the homeless population, and they are growing more aggressive and nasty in their attempts to repel them.

Therefore developing such types of design elements in the public domain is often seen as the public manifestation of the desire to exclude unwanted groups of people that have been prevalent in private life for many years and is perhaps best exemplified through the phenomenon of the gated community.  

Examples illustrating the usage 

  1. Under-road spikes in Guangzhou, China 
Concrete spikes under the flyover
Concrete spikes under the flyover  Rethinking the future 

Locals stated that before being forced to leave, people used to congregate under the overpass; however, the concrete spikes of the Huangshi motorway prevent them from using the bridge as a sanctuary. No department or unit came up to claim credit when the concrete suddenly appeared.

  1. Unorthodox benches in Tokyo, Japan 

Although these benches aren’t as rigidly-segmented as the ones listed above, their unorthodox designs make it difficult for people to lie down or relax on them.

A man lies on an uncomfortably short bench 
A man lies on an uncomfortably short bench   Rethinking the future 
  1. Sidewalk boulders in San Francisco, USA

Californian Danielle Baskin was walking through her neighborhood when she noticed a dozen rocks on the sidewalk. A few of her neighbors had collected $ 2000 to purchase and install “anti-homeless decorations,” she discovered after doing some research. However, this money might have been better spent on creating barriers that ban all pedestrians from using specified areas.

Boulder was placed along the sidewalk  Rethinking the future
Twenty four boulders were placed along the sidewalk to bar homeless people from settling there. © Danielle Baskin

  1. Obstructed spaces in France

In France, public areas can only be used in certain ways and with certain materials. These aspects can sometimes pass for art, while at other times they can be plainly hostile. Regardless of how they seem, they all have the ability to close off and restrict access to spaces.

Uneven bars in saint-ouen prevent homeless people from lying comfortably over the vent’s warm air  Rethinking the future
Uneven bars in Saint-Ouen prevent homeless people from lying comfortably over the vent’s warm air. © Twitter user Chad Loder
  1. Jagged rocks in Accra, Ghana 

In Ghana, hundreds of jagged rocks are strewn among the ground to prevent homeless people from residing there. It’s interesting to note how evident it is that these rocks only serve this purpose. 

Impact of Hostile Architecture 

In response to public demand for sanitary streets and public places, cities construct unfriendly structures. But where can a homeless person survive if access is limited and obvious poverty is frowned upon?

Construction of this kind is dangerous. The design decision implies that inhabitants who wander are not wanted. Homeless persons are not allowed to stay all day in congregate shelters, even when they use them. Those who don’t work gain more time because they have to leave early in the morning and can’t return until the evening. Because they have few other options, those who are homeless have an additional challenge.

People who aren’t homeless are also affected, particularly when chairs in public spaces are taken away.

Removing a seat makes it difficult for someone with mobility concerns, such as muscle weakness, joint discomfort, or neurological disorders, to stop and rest when they need to.

Hostile architecture not only penalizes the homeless but also other city dwellers by constructing uninviting, uncomfortable, and inconvenient urban areas. By providing homes for the homeless and improving city accessibility and community focus, cities should address the issue at its root rather than depending on reactive solutions that have an adverse impact on everyone.

Planners and the government euphemistically justify the activities as strengthening public safety and boosting tourism and trade, despite the fact that such construction drives homeless people out of more affluent and tourist-friendly areas. Non-consumers are excluded from unrestricted public spaces because of a hostile environment. These techniques are out of date for modern city planning. This does not put an end to homelessness. Moving homeless people out of sight won’t solve the socioeconomic problems that are causing the problem. For everybody who uses public spaces, it is also a net-negative policy. It fundamentally transforms public spaces from warm gathering spots where people may socialize with neighbors and take in the scenery to unwelcoming settings intended to discourage extended use.

Opposite of Hostile Architecture 

Inclusionary design, which takes into account the demands of all users during the design process, is the antithesis of hostile architecture. Other names for inclusive design include universal design and human-centered design. Wheelchair ramps, Braille signage, and assistive technology are a few examples of goods that have been built to provide access to individuals with disabilities as instances of inclusive design. But inclusive design goes beyond only catering to the needs of those with disabilities; it also considers the needs of all users throughout the course of the design process.


The practice of hostile architecture should be reduced and in some areas removed. Mainly because it affects the mindset of the people and how they preserve the homeless people and also it reflects upon the tourism of that particular city. 

Overall such practices should not remain active and government should be involved in improving the relationship between the users and the designers. 

Everyone has the right to live and use the urban public areas and no one can irradicate the rights of humans to use it for the betterment.