Architecture for Humanity - SF
Monday, October 31, 2005
DESIGNING FOR A COUNTER-HOMELESS INSURGENCY
This is a great collection of photos taken documenting the 'war on the sit,' the ANTI-SIT, assembled by Transfer. This is one niche of a whole vast landscape of 'anti-homeless design' that I have been documenting myself (see future article), but it is amazing the length people will go to prevent even the slightest allowance of homeless tolerance, even for a second. It's the mere thought, or really the mere sight of it that offends some people at this point, that they must attach a protective barrier to everything, a space that cannot be defined in the absence of a barrier, a ubiquitous urban barrier-context now orders every perceivable sphere of territorial real estate afforded in public space, down to the last park bench, the last block of sidewalk. Tiny fire-hydrants have their own personal castle-armor that will do them no good in the war on peeing. Young shrubs and trees look like soon-to-be baby victims of giant snapping bear traps, planter boxes that look and function now just like giant venus fly traps, and for all the homeless know they may even be giant snapping traps of some kind pretending to defend the dirt against errant cigarette butts or something. Imagine urban designers using biomimicry to hunt the homeless. Just look how these cellular telephone towers have been disguised. How have we come to microfit our sidewalks with such pathetic displays of a mini street-punk 'fortress architecture'? It is all confused now in a war on skating, a war on drugs, a war on the pigeons, a war on the homeless, a war on car stereos, a war on the activists, the cyclists, a war on trash, a war on anything not subject to total barrier control. These pictures glimpse the subliminal encroach of everyday eminent domain bursting at the seams of total absurdity and obscenity. These inanimate devices are the state's new heroic props for an emerging front on the 'war on terror,' the urbanization of homeless insurgency, homeless man as terrorist, mapping the nomadic migration patterns of man confined inside a massive city-wide anti-settling urban crawl space; constantly surveillanced, these poor flocks secretly feed the meter of a cartography of pre-emptive 'displacement by design'. A new meaning to the phrase "made-homeless" is gained, because here he is for every second of his wandering day an unbeknownst test-dummy for Homeland Security's anti-terrorist street upgrades. A free-to-roam wherever-he-pleases prisoner of perpetual eviction, where he has not even the freedom to take a rest anymore. No, rather he is only urged on by a meticulous army of situated barriers that prods him at every angle on his fall to the spiked asphalt. Such medieval architectural mounts are the literal bars of a postmodern carceral urbanism, a "street-side apartheid" where entire floating populations of "subversive and anti-patriotic" homeless networks struggle to carve out bunkers behind dumpsters now, where they can plot their maniacal strategies for finding food and a shelter each night in secret. "Fear the homeless man, 'cause he's no accidental terrorist!"
French authors Jean Rivière and Olivier Thomas describe it as "defensive space" or "Nuisible", the design aspects that define, or are defined by, a given mode of defensive space,a design rationale for absurd preventionism. Oh the irresistable design challenge of having to defend against something. A designer rash. Eventually we'll just have barriers for other barriers, an infinite run-away streetscape of micro-barriers, an entire landscape of insidious faux-fortress facade, landscape architetcure becomes barrier-scape architecture, instead of trees and grass we get iron cladding, bollards, concrete studs and spiked railings, the city covered in a retro-feudal wallpaper. Soon we'll all be part of an entire culture of barrier-challenged people, forever stuck behind our oh--so-clever barriers, forever making futher barriers there, just burrying ourselves in our brands and brands of new and improved hyper-barriers, we'll all be left stuck stagnant stupid staring at 'the spectacle of the barrier.' If not, then this is the greatest art project of all times.
Though these beautific barriers are hideous,
like tacky tourist lapels, our obsession with security becomes a totally grotesque iconic commodity, a kitschy way of tattooing the complexion of our public space with signs of authoritarian control. In which case that is the worst art project of all times. (via)
ALSO: The Design Philosophy Papers (DPP) Journal has a really good issue right now on homelessness and design, inspired by Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos’s work with and about homeless people’s communities in Sao Paulo. Check it out, lots of good reads.