The cityscape is constantly changing, mostly for the greater good. But if one were to observe carefully, certain structures have come up in recent times where the design is focussed on excluding a specific category of people, particularly the homeless and vagrants.

Australia has a significant number of homeless people, totalling about 116,000 people and representing a rise of 14 percent from the last census in 2011. There are about 850 homeless in the small local government area of the City of Sydney with about 300 literally sleeping rough.

hostile architecture
This bench has been designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on it. Image: Flickr

Called ‘hostile architecture’, these structures are built for the sole purpose of preventing undesirable people from making use of the public space. Done in a subtle manner, examples of hostile architecture include protruding armrests or raised bars on benches and spikes on raised surfaces to prevent the homeless from lying down; replacing regular benches at bus stops with narrow perch-style seats made using metal rails to discourage anyone using it for any other purpose; lugs on benches to discourage skateboarding; and automatic sprinkler systems to deter anyone camping at any specific spot.

Hostile architecture can be seen in application at the new Queens Wharf development in Brisbane CBD where discreet furniture solutions discourage the homeless, and Rockdale City where pink lights and loud music keep loitering youngsters away from their car parks. Even fast food restaurants use hard seating to ensure patrons move on as soon as their meal is over.

Instead of these brutal solutions, it has been suggested that city councils take a more solutions-based approach by developing shelters and housing, and keeping the homeless off the streets.