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Hostile Architecture (wikipedia.org)
104 points by eplanit on Aug 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments

Sometimes, locals decide to respond to the installation of hostile architecture by "killing it with kindness," such as covering anti homeless spikes with pillows and cushions. Here is one such article:


I think most hostile architecture is basically an admission that "We don't actually have a solution to our social problems, so we are resorting to a beatings-will-continue-until-morale-improves model as an outward expression of our incompetence."

That's my charitable take. My uncharitable take is that a lot of people in power don't care, have no heart and can't be arsed to pretend to care.

> My uncharitable take is that a lot of people in power don't care, have no heart and can't be arsed to pretend to care.

Well, as someone who disagrees, but also likes to think I have a heart, I'll give my 2c. Why don't we consider locks on your doors "hostile architecture"? Social problems are complex and difficult to solve, and just because we haven't solved them doesn't mean, for example, that people should be discouraged from trying to prevent people from urinating on their property. I mean, take one of the examples from the wikipedia article: Just because some people have a drug problem doesn't mean blue lights in a public bathroom to prevent IV drug use there is a bad thing.

Take homelessness. It is no coincidence that the cities that actually provide the most support and resources for the homeless actually have the worst homeless problems. With the lack of a national policy to deal with homelessness, providing better services does make your city a magnet for the homeless population (this is NOT an argument against providing those services, just a simple observation of cause and effect).[1] The fact that it would be good to be able to sit at a city bus stop I think is a good thing even if there are still homeless people in your city.

[1] https://cbsaustin.com/news/local/homeless-buy-one-way-bus-ti...

I spent years homeless.

A. Most services aimed at the homeless would be sued out of existence if they were intended for middle class clientele. They are frequently quite terrible.

For example: At a free meal from the Salvation Army, an older woman sitting next to me who had just gotten out of the hospital for a heart condition had all her stuff stolen for complying with their crappy policy of leaving her stuff in the unguarded designated area. It was cold and rainy that night and she had just lost all her extra clothes and bedding.

They were giving away bedding and clothes after the meal. No one walked her to the front of the line and said "Make sure she gets what she needs to make it safely through the night."

B. I'm mostly not interested in seeing more homeless services. They are mostly a "fuck you" solution.

If we actually cared about people in the US, we would have free national health care and an appropriate housing supply. We have neither, then we blame poor people as being crazies and junkies when they end up homeless.

Then we add insult to injury by giving them terrible food with long lines and similar "services" for which we expect them to be ever so grateful.

I'm wholly unimpressed with the entire thing. The system is quite broken.

Most homeless services here follow the "beggars can't be choosers" egotism of not attending to people's actual needs but rather looking down their noses on them, treating homeless people like criminals or make them jump through hoops like show animals.

For example, most of the doctor specialist services here have a "full" waiting list just to schedule an appointment and force people to call at a certain time in the morning for a few spots on said list, like animals jockeying to win the lottery.

Oh and the amount of food and cash aid is abysmal, not enough to feed or clothe anyone.

Most services demand either employment or only apply to certain groups, leaving many people to fall between the cracks.

The "social workers" are arrogant, obnoxious bureaucrats who don't listen to their clients but instead hold their aid over their heads and order them around without offering any solutions, strategies, resources or actual help... just judgement and control.

And it takes years to get disability status reviewed and longer to get housing. There are at least 1500 people living rough and 500 people living in vehicles in the area.

I was out of work and almost homeless (mostly extended couch-surfing) when the Affordable Care Act went into effect so I signed up for one of the subsidized low-income plans. They assigned me a primary care provider who was two cities away and told me I would have to see them in order for my care to be fully covered.

Later when I needed to see a doctor I dutifully made an appointment and rode the bus one and a half hours out there only to learn that my assigned provider was a pediatrician and she didn't feel comfortable taking me on as a patient. I contacted the plan provider and they assigned me a new doctor, but when I tried to make an appointment with him it turned out he was no longer practicing medicine. Fortunately one of his colleagues was able to take me and I finally received some care.

Three months later I was informed by his office that they were no longer in-network with my plan because they had had too much difficulty getting them to honor payments. I was assigned another primary care provider but thankfully I got a job not long after that and I never experienced the thrill of discovering whether the last one was a real living doctor or perhaps an inanimate can of Dr. Pepper.

Wow. Just excellent. This is done good journalism material for a stinger op.

On a less morbid note, while queues are slightly longer, nothing like that happens in any of UK, Canada or any part of EU.

USA is the "have no money, get bent" kind of country it seems. Kinda ruins the old American dream for everyone.

On a more morbid note, it's a frightening picture of the kind of country our current UK regime wants to create by leaving the EU at any cost and cosying up to Trump's America. They won't be able to dismantle the NHS all in one go but they'll certainly do everything they can to lower standards for all but the elite.

People voted Brexit like it or not so I think it's time to stop blaming the government for trying to deliver the referendum result. Lies were told of course but that's politics. Maybe investment and wages will increase and people won't care that much about free NHS anymore, at least that's the way I see it sold.

Either way EU will make a free trade deal(more or less limited) with the UK, the only real issue with Brexit is the irish border.

I was homeless too, and I was grateful for what you may have considered crappy meals. I even lived on the streets with my wife for a short time, and we both appreciated low quality service.

It was better than what we had, which was nothing.

I was very grateful for any help we received.

But some "help" is so bad it actually makes things worse. Being forced to leave all your possessions in an unsecured area to get a meal at all is an all-too-common practice. But it's not done everywhere and it's not necessary.

It's like the difference between a "bandage solution" and a "bandage" that isn't sterile. The second actively makes you worse off.

I won't argue that some people have bad experiences but unless the workers stole the stuff then the help wasn't bad itself. Also there may be reasons for those rules that maybe you don't understand.

I had to choose between hunger and safety before and you make that choice and live with it. Blaming others for trying to help you is not useful.


Nah, that wasn't lambasting. This is much closer to lambasting a homeless services organization for their shitty, shitty policies:


Much peace and love <3, because there's not enough humanity between people these days it seems.

How a society treats its most vulnerable, "undesirable" and powerless individuals (prisoners, homeless and other minority groups) reflects the true nature of its constituents.

It's truly a shame most modern people have no idea what it's like to be homeless and/or didn't learn the golden rule or empathy in their upbringing.

I run several websites either aimed at helping homeless individuals generally or that can be useful to people who are homeless. In addition to the above website (the San Diego Homeless Survival Guide), I also run:

Street Life Solutions


Pocket Puter


The Genevieve Files


Write Pay


They make me very little money, but some local homeless services and the local police department give out fliers of mine that list some of my sites. At least one local individual got back into housing, probably in part because of the information on my sites. I was acquainted with him and gave him a flier personally.

The police department seems to be my best ally in that regard. Unlike most homeless services,* they don't need the homeless problem to continue to exist to give their lives meaning or justify their paychecks. They would be thrilled to see the local homeless problem resolved so they could dedicate their limited resources to dealing with crime.

* (The Shirky Principle and Homelessness:


I'm still struggling to make ends meet and I seem to be making a dent in the homeless problem. It makes me really unsympathetic to arguments from more well-heeled people about how hard it is to solve or similar excuses for continuing to do nothing.

I appreciate that you are trying to defend people who are doing their best, but I think overall that was an unfair and uncharitable comment.

In my experience, homeless people act cringeing and fearful, and often call people Sir or Ma'am.

It's pretty horrible to see someone's spirit broken that way.

They aren't the people who need to learn gratitude.

Thank them for treating you like dirt? Get off your high horse of self-righteousness. Until you've been homeless, maybe you shouldn't comment.


> ... that does not mean you can castigate the motives of anyone who disagrees with your policy recommendations ...

You are literally midway through castigating her opinions based on an assumed motive. That isn't quite hypocrisy, but it certainly isn't a shining example of how to live your own advice. I hope I'm speaking for more people than just myself when I say you should aim for a higher standard than "not quite hypocrisy" when you disagree with someone.

> Reading more of your comments in this thread, and in our interaction prior; I've determined you're an extremely bitter person.

If you want to promote healthy conversations this lead in is not the way to do it. Your comment mixes a rather arbitrary character attack in with a reasonable point on moral language; and the mix is unpleasant.

Labeling people, even with positive labels, based on flimsy evidence is no path to dialog.

Please do not use a quote-framing (literal quotes, italics or brackets) when re-phrasing what someone else said.

True, that's dishonest to paraphrase as a quote. Would edit if I were able to at this point.

There is no motive in comment you responded to. It is list of complains about actions and policies.

"If we actually cared about people in the US, we would have free national health care and an appropriate housing supply."

That is a statement: because we do not have free national healthcare and appropriate housing supply, we do not care about people in the US.

This is patently false, and ill-motivated, seeking to disparage anyone who may offer alternative diagnoses or solutions.

The comment i reacted to sounds to me like overreaction to that statement, honestly.

This is a major problem in discourse on political and social matters, judging by what I hear in the United States. Instead of stating a position and supporting it with reasoning, we state a position and support it with, "and you're a racist/homophobe/communist/Jacobin/baby-murderer/$OTHER_MONSTER if you disagree." Nobody is convinced by verbal brickbats like these; instead, they're convinced that their opponents are impossible fanatics who can't be reasoned with. I can't imagine a series of publications like the Federalist/Antifederalist papers today, or even something as gentle as FDR's fireside chats; we don't, on the whole, have the intellectual honesty to listen to a conversation. Listen to what is considered "winning" in a political debate: it's not the reasoned defense of a position, or proposing an innovative solution to a recognized problem, but the snappy insinuation that an opponent is a closet racist and possible pedophile.

(Obviously, I'm angry here, but I'm also very, very sad.)

--- edit: close paren ---

> Reading more of your comments in this thread, and in our interaction prior; I've determined you're an extremely bitter person.

...I went extremely bitter just from reading this sentence.

Most of the busing programs actually require that the person have someone to stay with on the other end of the trip. That isn't to say there isn't some abuse, but generally speaking busing actually helps get people off the street.

Only 46% of homeless people are in urban areas, and in LA at least more than 75% of the homeless population have lived there for at least five years, with 57% having lived in the area for at least 20 years. Homeless people don't change cities nearly as often as people try to claim.

The biggest factor in homeless populations is housing costs. There have been multiple studies which show that when rent increases so does the homeless population. The magic number is 32%- when housing costs reach 32% of a typical households income then that neighborhood will see a dramatic rise in homelessness. That number has been reached in a huge number of neighborhoods.

To the point where homeless would hypothetically move: How? With what money? And where? These people typically have an arrangement figured out in their neighborhood.

Sleeping place where they won't be distributed, minimal or not source of income, sometimes friends...

> It is no coincidence that the cities that actually provide the most support and resources for the homeless actually have the worst homeless problems.

Reading this reminded me of the story of the emperor who, on learning that the most plague-ridden parts of his empire also had the most doctors, promptly ordered all the doctors killed.

My point is: you're taking a correlation and arguing a causation most people would consider backwards. The mechanism you've suggested for this causation - homeless people migrate to places with better services, increasing the net homelessness - assumes a lot about homeless people: that they have the means to afford travel, that they are informed about services for homelessness, that they are rational and in sound frame of mind, and that homeless people avail of homelessness services.

Almost none of these are actually backed by available data on chronic homelessness! (The Wikipedia article for this is a treasure-trove of primary sources on this front). This mechanism is too weak to support the model listed here. It ignores that a full fifth to a third of homeless people suffer from one form of mental illness or another (mental illness accounts for the number three reason for chronic homelessness). The homeless population includes teenagers (nearly half of all foster children are homeless by the time they turn 18) as much as adults. Lack of affordable housing is among the leading causes of homelessness - if these people hd money to travel, they sure as heck wouldn't be homeless in the first place.

This is not to say that some homeless people may migrate to places with better services - there are always exceptions. The vast majority, however, can't. It's just not valid to make the leap from "cities with better services become magnets for the homeless" to saying "that's the reason cities with more or better services also have high homelessness".

> The fact that it would be good to be able to sit at a city bus stop ... is a good thing even if there are still homeless people in your city

Agreed! But exclusionary architecture is not the only road guaranteed to get to nice bus stops. In fact, it is not even guaranteed to get to nice bus stops. It is the "let them eat cake" approach to getting nice bus stops: great for those who aren't homeless, lousy for those who are.

It boils down to if you want nice bus stops for everyone or just those who aren't homeless. If you want everyone to enjoy nice bus stops, then you invest in solving homelessness, not in propping up barriers for them. That's the long and short of it.

Why don't we consider locks on your doors "hostile architecture"?

Locks are a defence against an attacker. Someone sleeping on the pavement outside of an office building isn't attacking it.

No they aren't, locks are a defense against any kind of intruder, attacking or not.

Intruder and attacker are synonyms. They both mean 'invader'.

No they aren't, and no they don't.

You implied that by "synonym" you meant "things that mean the same". A thesaurus lists things that may be used in similar context, but that doesn't mean they are the same.

"A synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another.."

-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synonym

Your example uses the latter (nearly the same) for convenience, as tht is what a thesaurus if for (finding words that in certain contexts can be used synonymous.

It doesn't mean all listed words are exactly the same, i.e. drop in replacements, which depends on context, or 'sense'.

In this case, "attacker" is necessarily tied to the meaning of "attack", where "invader" does not have the same constraint, since "attack" and "invade" have different meanings. They can be used in synonymous contexts, but so can many distinct words, because words can be used euphemistically e.g I can talk of an "attack" on my rights, distinct from actual physical violence.

There are plenty of contexts where "attack" means the same as intrude and invade. If a country attacks their neighbour across a border, or an hacker attacks a computer system, or, as in the one I used earlier, a person trying to gain physical entry to a place they're locked out of. They are attacking the building. Homeless people sleeping outside it aren't doing that.

Are there are plenty where they aren't, hence the eords aren't synonymous. You can intrude on someone's space without attacking them. You specifically said lock are a defense against "attack". Homeless people camping out o private property are intruding.

> I mean, take one of the examples from the wikipedia article: Just because some people have a drug problem doesn't mean blue lights in a public bathroom to prevent IV drug use there is a bad thing.

Drug addicts by definition take drugs. Blue lights in toilets do not stop people taking drugs. They stop people taking drugs in that toilet. If we removed the blue light, and fitted sharps bins, people would take drugs in that toilet and not on the street, and they'd have a place to dispose of the needle. This would be better for everyone.

I don't disagree with you, but most people won't be persuaded by this framing.

I don't know if/how blue lights impact diabetic injections, since those apparently aren't injecting veins per se, but a more compelling argument for most people is that not all people using a syringe are engaging in illicit drug use.

When we design hostile architecture, we design with a presumption of guilt and punish or problematically forbid a lot of innocent behavior as well. This is one of the better arguments if you wish to actually persuade people.


First, I'm all in favor of having better access to drug treatment programs, things like needle exchange programs, and even in favor of giving addicts access to administration of their drugs in a safe setting.

> If we removed the blue light, and fitted sharps bins, people would take drugs in that toilet and not on the street, and they'd have a place to dispose of the needle.

This is laughable to me. To be in the frame of mind to need or want to shoot up in a public bathroom is not the same frame of mind to use a sharps bin to dispose of a needle.

> This is laughable to me. To be in the frame of mind to need or want to shoot up in a public bathroom is not the same frame of mind to use a sharps bin to dispose of a needle.

If you provide sharps bins they tend to be used.

They do this in Sydney, and there are maps available to show where the bins are.

> That's my charitable take. My uncharitable take is that a lot of people in power don't care, have no heart and can't be arsed to pretend to care.

The charitable take is that public space is meant to be usable by the general public, not have it adversely possessed as permanent living space. Most "hostile architecture" is designed to prevent only the latter, not the former.

The general public doesn't hang out in a lot of the places where they put spikes to interfere with homeless people being able to sleep, like under overpasses. We're not talking "You shouldn't sleep in the public square." We're talking "You shouldn't sleep at all. You shouldn't exist. No, we aren't really going to help you solve your problems and get off the street. We are just going to make your existence as miserable as possible while you are homeless and make it that much harder for you to solve your own problems."

At best, making it impossible for homeless people to sleep at all "solves" homelessness by sending people to an early grave. If that isn't cruel and heartless, I don't know what is.

The article you linked was talking about:

> The metal spikes, part of a trend called "hostile architecture," appeared recently outside of an office building in Manchester, England, that's managed by commercial property agent GVA, according to The Guardian.

The original wikipedia article uses the following examples:

> - The Seattle Department of Transportation installed bicycle racks to prevent the homeless from camping.[14]

> - A gas station in New Kensington, Pennsylvania installed blue lighting in their bathrooms that make it hard for drug users to find their veins.[15][16]

> - Anti-homeless spikes on London's Curtain Road to prevent homeless people from sleeping there.[17]

The further examples in the wikipedia article are clearly not otherwise unused overpasses.

Nice empathy you have there. I bet you would sing a different song if you were homeless.

Would you sing a different song if you weren't a throwaway?

The people in power are probably doing this because there are locals complaining about the homeless. So it's important that there are also locals who make it clear that they don't want this kind of unfriendly street furniture, and that they'll put up with the homeless until there is a solution that actually addresses the problem.

Is there a clear solution to homelessness that only requires people in power to have a heart in order to be effective?

No. You need a heart and some minimal level of competence.

If you have that, there are developed countries doing a good job of reducing the incidence of homelessness.

In the US, we spend insane amounts of money on care programs for the homeless, so much so it would literally be cheaper to just pay their rent. At least one hospital decided to do that (for some of their most expensive cases) as a means to lower its expenses.


Two things that would help enormously in the US:

1. A healthcare system that works.

2. A housing supply that meets the needs of our current demographic instead of being designed to only serve upper class nuclear families.

Re: 2. I've heard there's a huge surplus of vacant/dilapidated homes selling for a dollar in the rust belt. Is it really a problem of housing supply, or lack of demand, i.e. desire to live in, well, undesirable locations?

I find it hard to believe it's an economic matter of not meeting a certain low-cost customer segment of demand if all these empty houses are sitting around. The deeper issue may be structural unemployment, which isn't going to get any better.

While homeless, I looked into getting a dollar home.

They all had a minimum of several hundred dollars in closing costs. They typically also had very expensive defects, such as fire damage or flood damage and black mold because of it.

In recent decades, we've torn down around a million SROs. In the 1950s, the average new house was about 1200 sqft and held about 3.5 people. Today, it's over 2400 sqft and holds about 2.5 people.

We've largely zoned out of existence the creation of small homes in walking distance of amenities, like jobs and shopping. A car is practically a requirement to make life work for most Americans. For most Americans, housing is their biggest expense and a car is their second biggest.

I've lived without a car for over a decade. If I had to buy a car to access affordable housing, that would substantially cut into my housing budget. It just made more sense to find housing in a walkable community to make my life work.

Won't argue with you on the point about car obsession--cities prioritizing cars over humans is a clear problem.

I'd like to understand the incentives better--if SROs work well to put roofs over homeless, and lead to some level of economic activity where there would have been just unfulfilled need (all seem like big wins), what are the countervailing forces that prevent this from happening?

We've largely zoned them out of existence. I think this is strongly influenced by housing policies post-WW2 that helped create modern suburbs.

In a nutshell, Americans have a mental model of "proper housing" as housing designed for a fairly upper class nuclear family. We had a fairly high percentage of such just after WW2. Since then, our demographics have diversified away from that, but our housing stock has narrowed towards even more of that.

I'm hoping to figure out how to reverse that trend.



Housing in places without jobs is not really housing, it's a structure.

Here in SoCal there are 'free' abandoned houses out in the middle of the desert. Hours from the nearest service station or employment. Even just getting in and out of them requires dozens of dollars in gasoline.

> Housing in places without jobs is not really housing, it's a structure.

Great way to put what I was trying to say.

Another way to think of it is that there are tons of abandoned houses due to lack of opportunity, but no jobs left unfilled purely for lack of housing. The problem isn't that there isn't enough housing, the problem is there aren't enough jobs.

I would add:

3. A shift in our attitudes toward mental health issues, and systems in place to help people with mental health issues.

Right now in the US, people considering suicide can't even talk about it or they will be locked up for 48 hours.


I just tend to not make a clear distinction between health and mental health. I have something of a tendency to lump them together.

Hostile architecture is usually focused on the local/micro, the area of influence of the builder/owner.

Solving the actual problems in society that lead to hostile architecture is a harder problem and the builder doesn't have complete control of that. A builder can choose to donate to a charity that assists the homeless but that doesn't mean people will stop peeing in their property.

Does anyone know of an organization that could collect money from lots of builders/owners, apply some root cause analysis and try to solve the real problems so private owners don't need to resort to hostile architecture? Preferably a public one.

While it might be rational from a owner’s standpoint, their buildings usually have a public part (e.g. because it is directly accessible from the street) and my gut feeling is, that you should own up to it.

I know that many like their brutalist concrete surfaces clean, but ultimately your building stands in the public with public roads connecting to it and a public walking by and you have at least some moral responsibility to also serve that public if it doesn’t kill you.

If you wan’t to avoid people peeing everywhere, lobby for public toiletts. Real estate owners are typically really good at that kind of lobbying, typically it is always for thwir own good and never for the public good.

LaGuardia airport blasts you with a loud piercing noise if you sit on the toilets - an obvious move to keep people from lingering too long. But I’m stubborn and I really had to go, so I can tell you from experience the noise shuts off after a few minutes - I either made it overheat or I was sitting so still the sensor thought the stall was empty.

They should tune it to the brown note, that'd help keep things moving efficiently:


If the brown note was real it would probably be abused to death. High school kids would drive down the road blasting it on their speakers. Debt collectors would play it over the phone to embarrass people. YouTube people would be wiring people’s door bells to play it as pranks. CIA would lock people in ceramic rooms and play it for hours as torture. DARPA would spend a billion dollars developing an anti-brown note and weaponize constipation.

Architecture becomes hostile when the design doesn't guide users to a better alternative. It's fine to create a pee-deflecting wall, but there better be a public bathroom nearby. Likewise it's fine to reserve some benches for people who want to sit at the bus stop, but there should be some spaces nearby for people who want to recline also.

> It's fine to create a pee-deflecting wall, but there better be a public bathroom nrearby

I’d say it’s perfectly fine for a private builder to arrange things such that people are discouraged from peeing on his building. There’s no moral requirement to provide public restrooms.

And why not? They are using publicly serviced space. The buildings would be worthless without without publically funded roads.

If these buildings were truly private and exempt from the larger social society they wouldn't need hostile architecture in the first place.

Because the benefit of the public restrooms would extend to all private buildings in the area, but the cost would fall entirely on whichever sucker decided to pay for them -- and no one wants to be that sucker. That's why public funding is required to pay for public goods. This is basic economics.

I'd say the benefit would extend to all citizens in the area, since the area would no longer smell like urine. This could increase consumer traffic through the area and raise the economic value of the sucker's property.

Yes, while also raising the value of every non-sucker's property, hence the problem.

This is one of the reasons things like building codes and zoning exist...to specify expectations of certain types of buildings.

You are effectively referring to people who choose to participate in social society as 'suckers' which is fine in the abstract but...just is icky when you step and think about the ramifications like a empathetic human being.

No, everyone can agree that they'd like to support the public good as long as the costs they incur are proportional to the benefits they get. This is why taxation and public spending exists, and most of us agree that this is a good thing and don't have a problem with paying our taxes.

The fact that no one wants to be the sucker who everyone else freeloads off has nothing to do with lack of empathy.

If society can come together and build roads, sidewalks, public transit systems, etc that connect these private island-buildings, why can't it also provide public restrooms and public toilets?

They have. The homeless turn them into their homes. Drug users do drugs in them, and they are sheds for prostitution. Also, they are expensive to install and maintain.

Not here they aren't:

A) No light source by design. Why do you need one? To read a newspaper?

B) Have maintenance staff (for bigger ones) who actively prevent this and are paid (a pittance) for it - they also collect token pay for the use of e.g. shower. This also provides a few low paid jobs, reducing the problem.

C) Expensive? Come on. Look up the costs of a portapotty first. We're living in the world where public buildings are finished in marble and chrome...

D) We do not have huge drug problem in the first place, so people do not shoot up.

Of course anything with nonzero cost would get labeled as expensive, it's a funny world we live in.

Roads are more expensive than these. Any sort of public transport. Heck, pavement.

>The buildings would be worthless without without publically funded roads.

That publicly funded road would be pointless and unfunded without the economic activity driven by those buildings. In fact if you offered the businesses the chance to fund the roads, police and other things provided by the state that they benefit from themselves without the governmental overhead they would likely jump at the chance as it would be far cheaper than paying taxes.

My house uses “publicly serviced space” too, in that it’s on a road. Am I obliged to let strangers shit in my bathroom?

There is no way to convince someone about the morality or immorality of a stance since morality is subjective... But in places like San Francisco and LA the lack of bathrooms are creating disease vectors. I get both sides of the issue: the general public will totally trash private restrooms. But also as a member of the general public I'd like to live in a city with public health policy that's designed with 21st century norms like not having fecal matter in the street.

That's not a matter of building public restrooms (which, as you say, will just get trashed), it's a matter of not having so many homeless people on the streets that you end up with urine and feces everywhere.

I live in SF, and I am not homeless but still struggle to find somewhere to use the restroom without buying something I don't really want or need in a restaurant/bar/whatever. More than once, I have purchased something or just tipped someone merely because I needed to use the restroom. I frequently struggle to find somewhere to throw things away. I have walked several blocks (probably close to half a mile) carrying my dogs poop simply because there is nowhere to discard it.

I am not surprised that the streets are full of trash and human excrement. I have a place to go home to, and frequently hold it until I get there. I have a lot of empathy for those who live on the streets; I don't think anyone really wants to shit where they live, it's a matter of necessity. Where would you relieve yourself in SF if you didn't have a home or money to needlessly pay someone to use their restrooms?

Japan doesn't have public trash receptacles and they manage quite well. Conversely, in SF I've seen plenty of public trash receptacles where people have literally dumped their trash onto the street, even though the receptacle was clearly not full.

These are reflections of our societies, not root causes.

I'm really puzzled by absence of public restrooms in US.

I think you're confused; there certainly are public restrooms in our large cities. But even there, it just doesn't stop late-night drunks and the homeless from peeing on buildings.

Are you saying drunks and the homeless in the US are more destructive than the rest of the world?

I'm saying that some cities have a far higher concentration of homeless drunks than some other cities, and those are the ones that implement hostile architecture.

Morality is irrelevant here. Expecting people to "just hold it" indefinitely is simply unrealistic.

It may not be the responsibility of a private builder, but private builders operate in a larger social and regulatory landscape. Society as a whole needs to come up with reasonable rules that people are capable of complying with. Doing otherwise creates a broken system that goes very bad places.

When I was growing up, peeing in the shrubs (or on a wall or wooden fence) was fairly common, especially for men. If you want to ban that, then you need to provide enough public restrooms to make it a reasonable expectation to use the appropriate facilities.

In the US, Starbucks seems to have stepped up and decided to be a publicly accessible restroom for anybody who wants to use them

True, but only after a PR debacle in which two black men were arrested for waiting at a Starbucks in Philadelphia to meet someone. One of them asked to use the bathroom while waiting and an employee called the cops, who hauled them off to jail in spite of the white guy they were meeting showing up and talking to the cops to say "No, they really were waiting for me. That's the truth."

To save face, Starbucks apologized and made it company-wide policy that anyone can use their bathrooms, an announcement that got posted to r/homeless as a little good news for the homeless community.


They were asked to leave, and they refused. You can say it was dumb to ask them to leave, but that’s what happened. That’s when it became trespassing, and that’s when the cops got called.

What does it matter if they were meeting someone or not? The question is whether they were paying customers or not - and they weren't. Maybe they were all going to stand in line together and order something. Maybe they were just going to use Starbucks as a free meeting place.

I don't think calling the cops on them was the right thing to do if they were denied use of the bathroom but otherwise weren't making a scene, but I don't see why potentially being a customer in the future would give you privileges reserved for customers currently.

So you’ve never waited at a coffee shop for someone else to arrive?

If I am by myself, needing to use the restroom before I order, what should I do? Order first and then take the food with me in the restroom? Leave it unattended at the table?

Just go to the restroom. If someone tries to stop you, explain you have urgent priorities and will order afterwards.

I'm looking at these pee deflecting solutions. It's pretty hilarious to design a void filling mechanism to simply use gravity to deflect the urine back onto the urinator.


Men don't pee in public because they need to. They do it because they can. And because they make behavioural choices (drinking too many pints of beer before the pub closes/football match ends, and not going to the toilet while they have the opportunity, for example) that increase the likelihood of them "needing" to make otherwise pleasant public places filthy and disgusting. If public-toilets-everywhere was a basic human necessity, there would be many more women peeing in the streets. Toxic masculinity thrives because we allow it to; peeing in the street, in the vast majority of cases, is an example of this.

Any experiences with intentionally hostile software architecture?

Curious how for example code project structure or inter-process messaging constraints can prohibit mixing concerns or breaking the domain model. Also curious how such a forceful environment is experienced and whether it has the intended effect.

Well, there are hostile user interfaces at least: https://userinyerface.com/ https://www.darkpatterns.org/

and in programming you have defensive/deterrent features like prefixing unsafe function names with "unsafe"

Perhaps GCC qualifies? https://lwn.net/Articles/583140/

I came to the comments to talk about this, was totally hoping to scroll down and find a section about software in the wikipedia article.

I would argue that almost every project I have every worked on where the software was initially maintained by a single individual would be classified as "hostile architecture"

Microservices advocates claim that the pain of implementing features across microservices encourages modularity.

Lots of major cities are dealing with growing Homeless populations.

Stuff like this just seems like a gross bandaid https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/07/03/article-0-13E7211...

Holy shit, the bolt-studded steps in the wiki page were already gross, but putting "anti-homeless" dragon's teeth under bridges and overpasses steps way over it and into "abusively horrendous".

Related threads from 2016:



I feel like there was a discussion about this quite recently, too, but can't find it.

By that definition (esp. with urinal example), I'd include: locks, steps and fences. All have the effect of stopping some people doing what they wanted.

Maybe a pointless comment but this very article was linked in another post[1] that was trending a few hours ago. Could it be that this post was made while browsing Wikipedia from that other post?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20619947

This fella went all out with a challenge accepted attitude...

the fakir's rest https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv3M7FxJqtM

Aren’t skateboard deterrents example of this?

If skateboard deterrents refers to the nubs which are put on the railings for stairs, I'd say those come with more an ethos of, "This object is for the public to walk up stairs more safely. You will not use it as a ramp-bar. That both makes it unusable for anyone while you are doing that and also causes it to break down from friction more quickly."

Since there isn't really a fundamental human need to slide a skateboard down a handrail, I don't think it really counts as "hostile". It just represents, "I've agreed to provide a certain level of maintenance for this public handrail. Not enough to handle repeated skateboard friction."

That's an example in the linked article, so yes

Sure, for skateboarders.

Bus stops in the UK are terrible because of this. I could never sit on them, in fact I would stand outside unless it's raining.

Hostile architecture is fundamentally sick. To take public space and purposely make it hostile to the human body is just so abhorrent, I don't understand how it isn't illegal everywhere. There's something about it that really gets to me. It's just so twisted at such a deep level that it feels like it is (or borderlines on) a human rights violation.

I take it you've never been to a playground taken over by the homeless and drug addicts? Had to wash down the the sidewalk at 5AM in the morning so people don't step in filth walking into the office or store?

I don't see anything wrong with hostile architecture, per se. What's wrong is hostile architecture in the absence of shelters and housing programs. But the solution isn't giving over playgrounds and store fronts, but to provide housing.

And as someone who has lived in multiple large cities, I've seen firsthand (as an observer, as an acquaintance) a not insubstantial fraction of homeless will simply refuse assistance, whether because of mental problems or drug addiction. So the presence of hostile architecture doesn't necessarily mean shelter doesn't exist, it simply reflects other societal ills.

It's not just about the homeless, although they are the most affected. The very idea of it is horrible. We are slowly turning our cities into giant torture champers where it's uncomfortable to sit, uncomfortable to stand, uncomfortable to lie down. Everything is covered in nubs and spikes and built at angles that force you to expend energy. You can't ever relax. It's like this new breed of shopping malls that have no clocks, no rubbish bins, no benches and no water fountains. You either have to be shopping or leaving. Eventually the only comfy place left will be at home.

Because these things are abused. Simply providing them doesn't solve the problem--we'll just have really disgusting facilities that few people, if anybody, uses.

I don't know how to solve the problem. But railing against the symptoms doesn't help. Filthy public spaces are worse than no public spaces, and no public spaces is precisely what we'll get if we try to address the symptoms without addressing the underlying causes. Parks disappear, buildings are built without public spaces entirely or with "public spaces" inside buildings where security patrol and which become inaccessible after hours, etc.

It's basically Roller Coaster Tycoon.

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