The use of hostile architecture, especially in New York City, has exploded over the past decade and has come under heavy criticism for the way it affects public spaces.
The purpose of this type of structural design is to deter people from using a public space in a certain way (or sometimes from using it at all), and it often achieves this by adding sharp edges or ridges and ridges. uncomfortable slopes to things such as railings. , benches or even open concrete slabs.
The ironic problem with this design is that it makes public spaces more difficult for the public to use. Specifically, a major problem with hostile architecture is that it has a disproportionate impact on the poor and the homeless.
Hostile architecture has been around for centuries, and the practice is not entirely smart. From castle walls and anti-urination mounds in medieval times, to car blocks and terrorism-proof facilities, not all hostile architectures are designed to deter the public from using a space. On the contrary, some designs aim to make the space better for the public. Installations such as metal buttons on railings or wooden benches can prevent people from participating in activities like skateboarding, which can not only be dangerous in public space, but can also damage the ramp.
However, how do guardrail knobs and anti-terrorist installations differ from inclined benches and anti-homeless spikes? Who is most affected and how they are affected. The first two examples discourage the actions of those seeking to abuse public space, while the last two largely ensure that public spaces are not populated by the most unwanted (and vulnerable) members of a society. .
It seeks to make the homeless less visible (and then, by default, to make the area more palatable), without attempting to explain why these people are seen as unwanted or help them elevate their position. Not only does this not solve the problem, but it visually represents and reinforces the anti-homeless sentiment in American culture.
Architect James Furzer, interviewed by CNN, explains how degrading and dehumanizing it is for people who already have a hard time being watched all day and then being pushed out of the spaces they use to survive without having a best option.
America’s specific way of seeing people in poverty helps generate the response we need to address homelessness. The historical view in America is that justice and fairness are inherent in the free, individualistic capitalist system. In addition, the largely Christian population has been led by the Church to believe that individuals are responsible for their own destiny and that wealth is a form of reward for being pious and moral. Thus, poverty was seen as the result of a lack of work ethic, as well as some kind of moral or religious deficiency.
Many people and organizations have become aware of the issues related to the way America has historically approached these issues. As well as simply arguing against the hostile architecture, many understand that this is a great cultural reform that needs to change in the way homelessness is treated.
Homeless advocacy and relief organizations in New York, such as the Coalition for the Homeless, not only provide charitable assistance to the homeless, but also work to educate people and lawmakers on better ways to ‘really help solve the problem. If we want our money to be used effectively, the money intended for these facilities must be reallocated to systems that have been shown to help reduce homelessness rates or improve the quality and dignity of life of the homeless. . These are food and housing organizations, rehabilitation programs, job search programs and mental health organizations.
Hostile architecture, especially in its current urban iteration, does more harm than good to communities by removing the homeless population from society, encouraging anti-homeless sentiment, and making public spaces sparse. welcoming. Its use has been propagated by a historical and cultural misunderstanding of the causes and situations surrounding poverty and homelessness, and it exploits the vulnerability of some of the most unfortunate in a society.
Individuals, organizations and government must recognize the damage caused by these facilities and advocate for a more humane and efficient allocation of funds to help homeless people live better rather than push them further out of society.
(Kaelin Wolf, originally from Pennsylvania (I live in the Appalachians near Harrisburg) is currently a senior at Wagner College, living on Staten Island for four years. She is majoring in biopsychology in hopes of going to medical school. This commentary is part of a project in her social work class.)