Unpleasantville

dish_calgary

The architecture of “unpleasant designsshapes the behavior of urban-dwellers:

San Francisco, the birthplace of street skateboarding, was also the first city to design solutions such as “pig’s ears” – metal flanges added to the corner edges of pavements and low walls to deter skateboarders. These periodic bumps along the edge create a barrier that would send a skateboarder tumbling if they tried to jump and slide along.

Indeed, one of the main criticisms of such design is that it aims to exclude already marginalised populations such as youths or the homeless. Unpleasant design, [PhD student Selena] Savic says, “is there to make things pleasant, but for a very particular audience. So in the general case, it’s pleasant for families, but not pleasant for junkies.”

Preventing rough sleeping is a recurring theme. Any space that someone might lie down in, or even sit too long, is likely to see spikes, railings, stones or bollards added. In the Canadian city of Calgary, authorities covered the ground beneath the Louise Bridge with thousands of bowling ball-sized rocks. This unusual landscaping feature wasn’t for the aesthetic benefit of pedestrians walking along the nearby path, but part of a plan to displace the homeless population that took shelter under the bridge.

(Photo of rocks beneath Calgary’s Louise Bridge by Flickr user anarchitect)