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A Camden bench in London, a noted specific example of hostile design

Hostile architecture is an urban design trend in which public spaces are constructed or altered to discourage people from using them in a way not intended by the owner.[1] Hostile architecture is a subset of attempts to "design out crime" and "anti-social behavior".[2] Also known as defensive architecture, hostile design, unpleasant design, exclusionary design, or defensive urban design it is most typically associated with "anti-homeless spikes" — studs embedded in flat surfaces to make sleeping rough uncomfortable, and impractical.[3][4] Other measures include sloped window sills to stop people sitting, benches with armrests positioned to stop people lying on them, and water sprinklers that "intermittently come on but aren't really watering anything."[5][6] Hostile architecture also seeks to deter skateboarding, littering, loitering, and public urination. Critics argue that such measures reinforce social divisions and create problems for all members of the public, especially seniors, people with disabilities, and children.[7]



A 19th century flint cone, built into the corner of a medieval church in Norwich, England, to discourage men from urinating there

Although the term "hostile architecture" is recent, the use of civil engineering to achieve social engineering is not: antecedents include 19th century "urine deflectors".[8][9] Its modern form is derived from design philosophy, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design which aims to prevent crime or protect property through three strategies: natural surveillance, natural access control, and territorial enforcement.[10]

Critics of hostile architecture argue that it makes contrarianism impossible, that it replaces public spaces with commercial or "pseudo-public" spaces and uses architecture "to enforce social divisions".[11][12] Sociologist Robert Park wrote, "In making the city we make ourselves, one might wonder what collective self-conception has produced a city covered in metal spikes, illuminated by blue lights, buzzing with high-frequencies — paranoid, anxious and hostile, by design."[13] Urban designer Malcolm MacKay says: “Historically, defensive architecture was used to deal with the enemy without” and now he says that anxiety has been turned inwards.[14]


Examples of hostile architecture include:

  • The Seattle Department of Transportation installed bicycle racks to prevent the homeless from camping.[15]
  • A gas station in New Kensington, Pennsylvania installed blue lighting in their bathrooms that make it hard for drug users to find their veins.[16][17]
  • Anti-homeless spikes on London's Curtain Road to prevent homeless people from sleeping there.[18]

Consistent with the widespread implementation of defensible space guidelines in the 1970s, most implementations of CPTED as of 2004 are based solely upon the theory that the proper design and effective use of the built environment can reduce crime, reduce the fear of crime, and improve the quality of life. Built environment implementations of CPTED seek to dissuade offenders from committing crimes by manipulating the built environment in which those crimes proceed from or occur. The six main concepts according to Moffat are territoriality, surveillance, access control, image/maintenance, activity support and target hardening. Applying all of these strategies is key when trying to prevent crime in any neighborhood crime ridden or not.[19]



  • Design streets to increase pedestrian and bicycle traffic
  • Place windows overlooking sidewalks and parking lots.
  • Leave window shades open.
  • Use passing vehicular traffic as a surveillance asset.
  • Create landscape designs that provide surveillance, especially in proximity to designated points of entry and opportunistic points of entry.
  • Use the shortest, least sight-limiting fence appropriate for the situation.
  • Use transparent weather vestibules at building entrances.
  • When creating lighting design, avoid poorly placed lights that create blind-spots for potential observers and miss critical areas. Ensure potential problem areas are well lit: pathways, stairs, entrances/exits, parking areas, ATMs, phone kiosks, mailboxes, bus stops, children's play areas, recreation areas, pools, laundry rooms, storage areas, dumpster and recycling areas, etc.
  • Avoid too-bright security lighting that creates blinding glare and/or deep shadows, hindering the view for potential observers. Eyes adapt to night lighting and have trouble adjusting to severe lighting disparities. Using lower intensity lights often requires more fixtures.
  • Use shielded or cut-off luminaires to control glare.
  • Place lighting along pathways and other pedestrian-use areas at proper heights for lighting the faces of the people in the space (and to identify the faces of potential attackers).
  • Utilizing curved streets with multiple view points to multiple houses' entrances as well as making the escape route difficult to follow.

Access ControlEdit

  • Use a single, clearly identifiable, point of entry
  • Use structures to divert persons to reception areas
  • Incorporate maze entrances in public restrooms. This avoids the isolation that is produced by an anteroom or double door entry system
  • Use low, thorny bushes beneath ground level windows. Use rambling or climbing thorny plants next to fences to discourage intrusion.
  • Eliminate design features that provide access to roofs or upper levels
  • In the front yard, use waist-level, picket-type fencing along residential property lines to control access, encourage surveillance.
  • Use a locking gate between front and backyards.
  • Use shoulder-level, open-type fencing along lateral residential property lines between side yards and extending to between back yards. They should be sufficiently unencumbered with landscaping to promote social interaction between neighbors.
  • Use substantial, high, closed fencing (for example, masonry) between a backyard and a public alley instead of a wall which blocks the view from all angles.


  • Maintained premises and landscaping such that it communicates an alert and active presence occupying the space.
  • Provide trees in residential areas. Research results indicate that, contrary to traditional views within the law enforcement community, outdoor residential spaces with more trees are seen as significantly more attractive, more safe, and more likely to be used than similar spaces without trees.
  • Restrict private activities to defined private areas.
  • Display security system signage at access points.
  • Avoid chain link fencing and razor-wire fence topping, as it communicates the absence of a physical presence and a reduced risk of being detected.
  • Placing amenities such as seating or refreshments in common areas in a commercial or institutional setting helps to attract larger numbers of desired users.
  • Scheduling activities in common areas increases proper use, attracts more people and increases the perception that these areas are controlled.
  • Motion sensor lights at all entry points into the residence.

Creative responsesEdit

In 2003 Stéphane Argillet and Gilles Paté filmed Rest of the Fakir showing themselves attempting rest at examples of hostile design throughout Paris.[20]

In 2005 American artist Sarah Ross documented examples of hostile design throughout Los Angeles in her series Tempting Resistance. Her 2006 followup Archisuits created clothing designed to fit in the negative space of hostile design to allow for sleeping.[21]

In 2018 British artist Stuart Semple created a social media public awareness campaign encouraging the public to place identifying stickers on instances of hostile design in their environment.[22][23][24]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "hostile architecture". Macmillan Dictionary. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  2. ^ Design Council. "Design out crime" (PDF).
  3. ^ Omidi, Maryam (12 June 2014). "Anti-homeless spikes are just the latest in 'defensive urban architecture'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  4. ^ Andreou, Alex (18 February 2015). "Anti-homeless spikes: 'Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city's barbed cruelty'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  5. ^ Quinn, Ben (13 June 2014). "Anti-homeless spikes are part of a wider phenomenon of 'hostile architecture'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  6. ^ Mills, Chris (21 February 2015). "How 'Defensive Architecture' Is Ruining Our Cities". Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  7. ^ Chellew, Cara (January 21, 2018). "#defensiveTO". #defensiveTO.
  8. ^ Swain, Frank (2 December 2013). "Secret city design tricks manipulate your behaviour". BBC.
  9. ^ Lee, Jackson (23 July 2013). "Urine Deflectors in Fleet Street". The Cat's Meat Shop. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  10. ^ Chellew, Cara (2016). "Design Paranoia". Ontario Planning Journal. 31 – via ResearchGate.
  11. ^ Swain, Frank (5 December 2013). "Designing the Perfect Anti-Object". Medium. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  12. ^ Shea, Michael (5 August 2014). "On the frontline: The architectural policing of social boundaries". Discover Society. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  13. ^ Living, Mira Adler-Gillies for Blueprint for (2018-03-02). "How 'hostile design' is quietly hurting our cities". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  14. ^ "What is hostile architecture?". Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  15. ^ Groover, Heidi (19 December 2017). "Seattle Uses Bike Racks to Discourage Homeless Camping". The Stranger. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  16. ^ Watts, Amanda (December 7, 2017). "Gas station installs blue lights to combat drug use". CNN. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  17. ^ Crabtree, A.; Mercer, G.; Horan, R.; Grant, S.; Tan, T.; Buxton, J. A. (2013), "A qualitative study of the perceived effects of blue lights in washrooms on people who use injection drugs", Harm Reduction Journal, 10 (22): 22, doi:10.1186/1477-7517-10-22, PMC 3853159, PMID 24099145
  18. ^ Borromeo, Leah (2015-07-23). "These anti-homeless spikes are brutal. We need to get rid of them | Leah Borromeo". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-11.
  19. ^ Wilson, Paul (1989). Designing Out Crime. Australian Institute of Criminology. p. 23.
  20. ^ pategilles (2009-12-20), the fakir's rest, retrieved 2018-11-20
  21. ^ "/\SARAH ROSS/\". Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  22. ^ "Hostile Architecture: 'Design Crimes' Campaign Gets Bars Removed from Benches – 99% Invisible". 99% Invisible. Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  23. ^ "Stuart Semple launches campaign to eradicate 'hostile design' around the world". Retrieved 2018-02-15.
  24. ^ "Artist Launches Campaign to Call Out Hostile Urban Design". Hyperallergic. 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2018-02-15.

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