The documentary discusses the concept of hostile architecture, which is the idea of shaping the environment around humans to influence their behavior. Examples include uncomfortable benches, blue lights, and spikes in designs, which are often used to prevent loitering, sleeping, or other unwanted activities.
The origins of this concept can be traced back to the 1800s when Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann remodeled Paris after the 1848 workers' revolution to prevent similar uprisings in the future. Other public housing pioneers like Elizabeth Wood advocated for integration and inviting designs for loitering. However, Robert Moses, who built highways, bridges, and hundreds of playgrounds, also made it difficult for people of color to visit them.
A biography called "The Power Broker" written by Robert Caro criticized Moses for being racist and using his power to segregate Black people from white people in parks. However, the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) theory, published in 1971 by C. Ray Jeffrey, suggested that altering physical and social conditions of the environment can prevent crime. This theory represents an advancement in the field of criminal logical study.
While some forms of hostile architecture, such as bollards used to protect buildings from vehicle attacks, are defensible, others, such as benches with anti-graffiti coatings or spikes, are more controversial. Critics argue that hostile architecture is often used to hide poverty and inequality rather than address it, making some people feel more comfortable but ignoring the root cause of homelessness.
Stuart Semple, a UK-based artist, called the Camden benches the "best example of the worst kind of design." Some proponents of hostile architecture, however, prefer to call it "defensive architecture."
While these design strategies may seem effective in deterring unwanted behavior, they fail to address the root causes of the issues they aim to solve. In the case of homelessness, hostile architecture designs like sprinklers, bike racks, and pee-proof designs do nothing to address the core problems of homelessness or attempt to help these people in any way.
Similarly, hostile architecture designs like pig ears, mosquito sounds, and atonal music aim to prevent loitering and skateboarding but do not offer any real solutions. Addressing the root causes of these issues and recognizing the humanity of marginalized people could lead to more effective solutions.