BY EDDY ZHAO '25 AND AUSTIN KIM '25
Why Can’t I Just Lie Down?
Last July, I wandered down NYC’s bustling street. Tired of walking in the heat, I searched for a place to lie down. However, I could only find raised metal grates with sharp edges, benches with inconvenient handles obstructing sleep, and protruding textured railings. These are examples of hostile architecture, which many cities use to prevent misuse of public facilities. Although some argue hostile architecture deters crime and maintains city order, it needlessly targets the homeless. Instead, cities should reallocate resources poured into hostile architecture and invest in actively helping the homeless.
Consequences of Hostile Architecture
At first glance, hostile architecture appears commendable for its supposed ability to reduce homelessness and deter crime However, hostile architecture does not solve the rising homeless crisis at all; it only pushes this issue further down the path, making it harder to fix in the long run. In fact, merely robs the homeless of their shelter.
Devaluing homeless people spreads anti-homeless sentiments, perpetuating a negative image of poverty. This is especially problematic because hostile architecture fails to address the main issue of homelessness: the inability to access or afford housing.
Hostile architecture even affects those who are not homeless, ironically discouraging the use of public facilities by the public. For instance, bothersome chairs and benches plague the handicapped and create accessibility issues.
Instead of hostile architecture, policymakers should look towards investing in supportive programs and helping the homeless get on their feet. For instance, some countries have employed an approach called Housing First, which prioritizes housing over other essential needs such as mental health and addiction. Finland uses this method to provide unconditional shelter to those who need them. According to data from the Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland, homelessness has dropped 45% between 2012 and 2021, making it the only country in the European Union where homelessness rates are falling. Cities around the world should adopt Housing First as a proven solution to reduce homelessness instead of supporting harmful design.
The Future of Hostile Architecture
Hostile architecture’s numerous drawbacks challenge the practicality of its intention to help solve the issue of homelessness. While high crime rates, poverty, and tarnishing of image are some of many reasons why homelessness is not wanted in cities, hostile architecture does nothing to stop this. Thankfully, growing amounts of backlash have caused some cities to start removing hostile architecture, but for the near future, it’s here to stay. No one wants to spend their nights on the streets, so the goal to end homelessness in the future is one that we all desire to achieve.