Stayin’ alive…in the face of hostile architecture

Stayin' alive... In the face of hostile architecture
Illustration © Manny Francisco

Sometimes, a city’s architecture can be designed against you – think metal rails to prevent children playing ball in void decks and London’s anti-squatting spikes. What’s a human to do in those instances?

A city can be designed for you just as well as it can be designed against you.

When you are designed against, you’ll know it. You’ll live it. If you don’t feel or see anything of the sort, then you are lucky enough to be in a socio-demographic stratum, be it by age or health or economic bracket, where you’re currently part of the continuum being designed for. In this case, you can only experience being designed against when you happen upon someone being designed against experiencing it.

I was taking a late-night walk near the canal by Dakota Crescent when I saw an uncle sleeping on a bench. I looked twice because his head was resting on a very high stool that he’d evidently brought on his own, whilst his body was on the bench.

Perplexed as to why he would have gone to the trouble of bringing a stool to prop his head on when surely he could have just rested it on the edge of the bench, I looked closer as I passed. In the middle of the bench was a metal divider, designed for the express purpose of making it impossible for someone to recline in full.

Whilst there are micro-urban- planning measures like these in other metropoles – the infamous anti-squatting spikes in London – it was quite sobering to see hostile architecture in action in my own backyard, and to feel how quiet and present, but stark in contrast, hostile architecture is, to the warm-hearted and communal-centric rallying statements so beloved by those in power, that we hear so often: Gotong royong, kampung spirit! […]

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