Defending Suburbia: Exploring the Use of Defensive Urban Design Outside of the City Centre


  • Cara Chellew York University


Public space, defensive urban design, hostile architecture, suburban space, CPTED, espace public design urbain défensif, architecture hostile, banlieu, CPTED


Defensive urban design, also known as hostile, unpleasant, or exclusionary architecture is an intentional design
strategy that uses elements of the built environment to guide or restrict behaviour in urban space as a form of
crime prevention, protection of property, or order maintenance. It often targets people who use or rely on public
space more than others, like people who are homeless and youth, by restricting the behaviours they engage in.
From benches specially designed to prevent lying down to the addition of elements that are meant to deter
skateboarding, forms of defensive design vary according to the behaviour it is intended to restrict. While much
of the current research on the subject privileges the urban centre as the site of research, this paper expands the
focus from the centre to the periphery. Taking two public spaces in Toronto’s inner suburb of North York as a
starting point, this paper examines how defensive urban design is used regulate, control, and maintain public
space outside of the city centre.

Author Biography

Cara Chellew, York University

Faculty of Environmental Studies
York University