"Hostile architecture" and its confederates: A conceptual framework for how we should perceive our cities and the objects in them

  • Karl de Fine Licht Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Keywords: hostile architecture, defensive architecture, disciplinary architecture, definitions


In recent years “hostile architecture” or designs (also called “disciplinary architecture” and “defensive architecture”) has become an ever more common feature of our cities. Examples of these designs are benches you cannot sleep on, spikes you cannot stand on, and metal plugs you cannot skate on. These designs have created an outrage among activists and the general population since they have largely been conceived as an attack on the worst-off and there is an increasing academic body of work mostly looking into their design features, the motivations behind them, but also whether and under what condition they should be used.

Although progress has been made on the issue of these forms of architecture/designs, no clear definitions currently exist for “hostile architecture,” (etc.) and their related concepts, which are especially concerned with their respective environments, such as a “hostile environment.” As a result, there has been no clear discussion of how these concepts relate to each other and also to morally permissible and impermissible actions, which many times lead the discussion astray. In this paper I try to amend this by defining the central concepts, as well as showing how they relate to each other and morally permissible and impermissible actions.