Architecture is something that constantly surrounds us and can be very beautiful, yet do we ever truly think about the intentionality behind why something is designed a certain way? We walk around every day oblivious to the designs put in place to prevent so-called “crime”. The homeless are one of the most targeted groups of this architecture. Oftentimes, certain areas will be designed in a manner to prevent the homeless from being able to settle down and sleep. Trying to find shelter on the street is found to be a crime as loitering or being on private property is against the law. This can be seen in most major cities and especially downtowns that have a larger homeless population.
Going to school in San Diego, I have personally seen this hostile architecture around. Many benches around the city have armrests dividing the bench into multiple seats. To the naked eye, this may only seem like a way to separate people and give more seating options to people who did not want to sit next to one another when in reality, these are put into place to prevent the homeless from using the benches as beds. When San Diego hosted the MLB All-Star Game in 2016, leading officials wanted to make the city appear in the best manner possible. This meant preventing the homeless from creating encampments near the stadium being that it is located downtown. Boulders were placed under the freeway along with fences to prevent the entrance of anyone and furthermore the settlement of the homeless in the area giving the most appealing look to visitors.
Taking something like architecture that allows for such artistic freedom expressing a wide range of ideas, concepts, feelings, and emotions but making it be negative and an impediment to many is not what art should be used for. Privilege places a large part in one’s ability to create art and also one’s ability to have a shelter to call home. Calling homeless people criminals for looking for somewhere to safely rest ignores the privilege at hand. The same privilege is ignored when architects are able to design and build as a career. Usually, it is also seen as criminal if an architect tries to build a shelter for the homeless on the street as they are “helping” keep the homeless on the street even though the lack of shelter is what often prevents the homeless from finding stability and being able to possibly no longer be homeless.
Hostile architecture can be seen in almost every city on every corner, however, unless it is directly affecting you, one will think of it as another work of art for aesthetic value. In the aesthetic value aspect, you are partly right since there is aesthetic value in this architecture nonetheless it is the aesthetic value of the homeless not being seen as they are kept from settling down in the area making the area have a look that is most appealing to the tourist. Therefore, next time you are walking around, pay closer attention to the smaller details in certain architecture and think about the intentionality behind the way certain pieces of artwork are designed to know who it is affecting.