A Classification Scheme for Hostile Design




hostile design, hostile architecture, public space, homelessness, defensible space


A discussion is emerging over what is called “hostile design,” among other names, i.e., the construction of public-space objects in ways that exclude particular usages, and with an alleged effect of discrimination against already vulnerable populations.  Critics outline various examples, from spikes added to a ledge to deter loiterers from sitting, to armrests added to a bench to discourage the unhoused from using it as a place to sleep.  In an effort to sharpen the notion of hostile design as a critical tool, I develop an original typology, one in which the various examples are organized in terms of the mechanisms through which their hostility is enacted.  This sets up reflections on some variables of hostile design—such as their level of “conspicuousness,” and their “domain of effect”—that cut differently across these categories.