The theme for this year’s Second Life birthday celebration is taken from the Winston Churchill quote: “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” How and what we perceive creates our experience and often our perceptions creates our future. What perceptions will create the future of our public landscape?
Defensive architecture is a pervasive element in the modern city. Is this how we deal with the homeless problem? Spikes in the ground so they cant sleep here. Benches that make it impossible to rest. Noise and light designed to discourage loitering.
It’s not just the homeless; teenagers, the poor, the disenfranchised and other marginalized members of society are targeted by defensive architecture and made the victims of an engineered assault.
What began as a movement to create clean, safe places for public enjoyment have altered to become something very different — a movement that views and treats everyone as a potential threat.
Such measures don’t just discriminate against the targeted population, but also makes it difficult for anyone to rest, read or simply enjoy a space that might have been originally designed for that purpose.
Welcome to Serenity Park.
“Architectural deterrents to skateboarding and sleeping are interesting because – when noticed – they draw attention to the way that managers of spaces are always designing for specific subjects of the population, consciously or otherwise,” he says. “When we talk about the ‘public’, we’re never actually talking about ‘everyone’.”
“When you’re designed against, you know it,” he says. “Other people might not see it but you will. The message is clear: you are not a member of the public, at least not of the public that is welcome here.”
“Defensive architecture doesn’t address the underlying problem of homelessness. They simply shift it from one area to another, or worst still, reduce its visibility.”
“The original goal was a lot more pro-public,” says Lockton. “But these new features are part of a range of strategies that perceive the public as a threat and treat everyone as a criminal.”