You pass me every day. Some of you may never even notice me. But for others, I am the only thing you can think about. I am designed to be uncomfortable, unpleasant, and restrictive. I subtly and not so subtly influence your public and private spaces. There is no reason for my existence except to deter you.
I am global. I have crept into your world and I am pervasive. Some celebrate me. Others condemn me. Whatever you may think of me, the results are still the same. I control your actions and behaviors.
I am the blue lights in the bathrooms of Busáras. I am the armrests on park benches. I am the spikes preventing you from sitting or sleeping. I am the rough surfaces on walls, the barbed wire on fences, and the locked gates to entryways. I am the signs that command you. I am angled surfaces and the metal “pig ears” skateboarders are all too familiar with. I am barriers, bollards, and CCTV. I am sloping bus stop perches and kissing gates. I am the deliberately small openings in trash cans. And I am not limited to humans. I am the spikes that prevent birds from roosting. I am the Camden Bench.
I am non-negotiable. I am permanent and uncompromising. And I am undeniably successful.
I am not without controversy: my supporters say I create safer and more welcoming environments. I am designed to prevent crime, litter, and loitering. I protect private property. I encourage proper behavior. Would you rather have piles of garbage and antisocial behavior? I am a necessary evil. I am an inevitability.
But my critics argue I am disruptive and dismissive. I enforce social divisions and exclusion. I privatize public space. I target marginalized individuals. I drive the homeless to congregate in other areas. I am dehumanizing. My message is clear: “You are not welcome.”
Regardless of how you feel about me, I am purposeful. I was designed, approved, and funded with intent. I am hostile architecture. Now that you know me, will you notice me?
For those interested in hearing more on hostile architecture, Science Gallery Dublin will host a discussion with Dublin City Architect Ali Grehan, Dublin Cyclist Campaign and Cyclist.ie coordinator Damien O’Tuama, and designer at Unthink Colin Farmer on Thursday, December 1 at 6pm. Registration to this free event can be booked on Eventbrite.