Artist launches international campaign against ‘hostile design’

The new benches with bars installed by the Bournemouth Council. Photo: Stuart Semple

British artist Stuart Semple is launching a campaign to eradicate various forms of ‘hostile design’, The Art Newspaper reports. The initiative emerged after the artist noticed that retrofitted bars had been installed across the benches in his home town of Bournemouth, preventing homeless people from sleeping on them. 

After Semple posted a picture of one of the benches on Facebook, he was inundated with comments protesting the ‘inhumane’ and ‘disgraceful’ attitude of the council. Hostile design, also called defensive architecture, is a ‘stealthy way of policing public space’, Semple says, adding that such designs ‘legitimise the point of view that homeless people are the enemy. Instead they need support, often with addiction or mental health.’ The artist's campaign website launches later this week as a place for people to send in photographs documenting examples of defensive designs. Semple aims for the site to become an archive, hoping that ‘by naming and shaming the bodies who fund and install these things, we might actually shift some of these prejudicial ideas’.

Read architect Joshua Comaroff on the increasing use of defensive architecture

1 February 2018