We normally think of the spikes used in so-called “hostile architecture” as tools used to deter pigeons, not human beings.
While homelessness is a complex issue and one that is particularly troublesome in some cities, it’s hard to see metal spikes and knobs employed to deter people from sitting or sleeping on the streets.
And they certainly don’t solve the problem of homelessness – instead, they just force people to move elsewhere and they’re typically employed in places where cities don’t want shoppers and tourists to see their homeless populations.
Spikes aren’t the only tools used to influence the way people act in cities. The “Camden bench” is another tool used to deter anything but proper sitting. It’s designed to be sleep-proof as well as deter graffiti because of its design.
Another way to employ “hostile” or “defensive” architecture involves putting armrests on benches to keep people from getting too comfortable.
But one group of artists is fed up with the tactic and has set to work making these spaces usable again to vulnerable populations.
“Spikes do nothing more than shoo the realities of poverty and inequality away from your backyard — so you don’t have to see it or confront what you can do to make things more equal. And that is really selfish.”
According to the group’s Tumblr page, “Space, Not Spikes came from the anger of public/private space inequity.”
In 2015, they “reclaimed” an area outside a London nightclub that had special meaning to the artistic community by covering the spikes with bedding, pillows, and even a bookshelf with reading material for people to enjoy.
Here are the artists enjoying their creation:
The finished product was not just functional but inviting, complete with throw pillows for an artistic touch, but also to make a point about how cities should welcome citizens.
A bookshelf includes reading materials and serves as an invitation to sit down on what was once an area that violently rejected comfort with sharp spikes.
And the artists left a note for those curious enough to sit down and take a peek.
After receiving attention from around the world and a few celebrity shout-outs on Instagram, Borromeo told Upworthy:
“[The project has] definitely touched a nerve and I think it is because, as a whole, humans will still look out for each other.”
She said that this kind of architecture encourages people to dismiss the welfare of others, but that at the end of the day the art project is meant to prove that humans are far more compassionate as a whole.
Better Than Spikes isn’t the only group doing their part to protest this particularly brutal intervention.
Fast Company reported that one family thwarted a building’s efforts to use spikes in Manchester, England.
After seeing the newly-installed spikes, Jennie Platt and her pre-teen sons Sam and George went out and covered them with cushions and also brought snacks to the homeless men and women living in the neighborhood where they were installed.
“I thought it was really mean and a Scroogey thing to do, it is really unnecessary,” she told the Manchester Evening News. “It’s a spot where people can keep warm and sheltered, people don’t need to be that mean.”
The spikes were removed after all the bad press they received.
It’s clear that the actions of a few people really can make a big difference.
If you want to take a look at the efforts of the artists at Space, Not Spikes, you can scroll down below to see a video they made while covering the spikes in London.
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