Unpleasant Design – When Bad Design is Used to Hide Problems – Extra Credits

Unpleasant Design – When Bad Design is Used to Hide Problems – Extra Credits


Before we start, big thanks to Ethan Richie and Gem Williams for handling the art for us this week. In September of 2017 the City of Seattle placed 18 shiny new bike racks underneath a bridge that was slated for demolition in less than a year. Why? Unpleasant design. Intro Music Today’s topic is kind of a heavy one. It’s less about game design than design in general. And it serves to remind us of the power and the danger of design. Unpleasant design, also often referred to as hostile architecture, Is the practice of excluding a group of people from a space in such a way that most people won’t even notice. It’s exclusionary design. In Seattle’s case the bike racks weren’t put there for bicyclists, they were put up so that homeless people couldn’t camp under the bridge. These racks were literally rushed in right after the police came and swept a group of people out of one of the few dry places left to stay in the city as we entered the heavy rains of early winter. And they were put there so citizens wouldn’t have to have the burden of denying people a dry place to sleep on their conscience. Most people wouldn’t even give much thought to why those bike racks were put there. It would just seem like the city had added some bike racks. and thus people wouldn’t have to experience the distress of thinking about what happens to all the people who previously lived there, and wouldn’t complain about it. This is an incredibly common municipal practice. If you’ve ever been in a bus stop with one of those leaning benches, just sort of a rail along the side of the thing instead of a proper bench, that is there for the same reason: so people can’t sleep there. You would be surprised how much money and energy go into hostile design. the Camden bench is an example from London of an expensive replacement for a standard bench whose primary features are that it is angled in such a way that it is impossible to sleep on or skateboard across. And if you’ve ever wondered why there are weird metal flanges on architecture, like these in the Embarcadero in San Francisco, or these in London, those are not an aesthetic choice. They are there to keep people from skateboarding along it. Or, if you’ve ever been in a public bathroom lit with weird blue light and wondered why that is, those lights are there to make it harder for drug users to find a vein. Sometimes it’s even simpler than that. If you’ve ever been to a store in a popular area and for some reason they’re all playing what you would consider to be bad country, classical, or opera music, this is often an attempt to make the spot less “cool” so young people won’t hang out near there. Heck, there is even a system called a Mosquito that’s been installed in a number of places that, theoretically, makes a buzzing noise too high-pitched for anybody over 25 to hear. Unpleasant design isn’t new, though. It goes way back. In the 1800s in Norwich, they didn’t have enough public restrooms and public urination became a problem. But instead of immediately installing more public restrooms, they started to build the walls of buildings so that they were sloped in just such a way that anybody trying to pee on them would have it splash back on their clothes. Today, from Cologne to San Francisco, we use hydrophobic paint instead. Then there are the subtler examples. in terminal 5 of Heathrow there are far too few seats for the number of people passing through. But there’s lots of seating in the shops So if you want to sit, you had better be able to afford to hang out at the restaurants. And if you can’t afford it, well, discomfort might drive you in there anyway But the vast majority of unpleasant design is targeted at the homeless. If you’ve ever seen benches with unnecessary arm rests, piles of rocks to break up flat surfaces in an architectural design, Or just those random little nubbins along windows, stoops or the sidewalk, those all exist to keep people from sleeping there, or even from just staying there for too long. If you’ve ever sat on a bench with all of those little random micro holes, Those are there for the same reason: to make the bench colder so people don’t rest there for too long. The problem with this kind of stuff is that, rather than address any of the root causes of homelessness, the goal of this design is to address the fact that many people are uncomfortable with seeing homelessness. It’s not concerned with why that makes us uncomfortable. It’s not concerned over whether maybe we should be uncomfortable, not with homeless people, but with homelessness itself. Unpleasant design devotes large amounts of money to allow us to go about our pleasant lives and blissfully ignore problems, allowing those in charge of solving those problems to simply sweep them under the rug rather than confronting them or actually trying to find the solution. It takes resources that could be used to actually address those issues and spends them instead helping us put those issues out of mind. It’s pretty unconscionable. There is a small ray of hope here though, because when people are made aware of what those types of design are meant to do, they tend to rebel against it. every time the populace actually realizes what’s going on, there are all sorts of efforts made to render those unpleasant designs benign, From mattresses thrown over anti homeless spikes to people cutting the unnecessary arms off of those benches Humanity as a whole tends to be better than the politicians who deploy these things. and those bike racks I mentioned in Seattle? A citizen who realized what was going on put in a public information request about them. It turns out they were absolutely there for no other reason than to deter the homeless, and the emails acquired from the public information request got passed to one of the local papers. The populace was outraged when they found out, and they flooded the mayor’s office with demands to have them removed. Recently it was announced that those bike racks would be taken out. Hopefully, they should be gone before this episode goes live Thank you very much for sticking with us for this episode, I know it wasn’t about games, but this stuff is still really important. It’s important to our world, our cities, and the way we see the space we live in. And it’s also important to an understanding of design, because design should be about solving problems, not hiding them. See you next week. Outro Music

52 thoughts on “Unpleasant Design – When Bad Design is Used to Hide Problems – Extra Credits

  1. In September of 2017, the city of Seattle placed 18 shiny new bike racks underneath a bridge that was slated for demolition in less than a year. Why? Unpleasant design. What lessons can we take away from this to apply to our games?

  2. Talking about the holes on benches, it's probably a pleasant design to have in tropical islands lol
    just lower the poverty rate, plz

  3. I remember that I had to read a book for school called Scratch Beginnings which handles homelessness a great deal. The author mentions that the shelters were uncomfortable and unclean, with the intention of encouraging people to leave the shelter in pursuit of a better place to sleep. Do you think this is an example of uncomfortable design being used for good, or just cruel?

  4. I like that take on "Oppressed People" for the outro. I'm sure Midgar has tons of such things and worse in place…

  5. I live near Seattle and this is a great video for a city like it because i see it in more then just bike racks i see it everywhere in Seattle…and those bike racks are still there in many places-

  6. I'm going to sound really synical but someone needs to say it. You can't stop all homelessness. Did you know that 87 percent of people who claim to be homeless. Are either lying or are willingly homeless. And when cities do this. Yes it keeps homeless people from sleeping them. But it also helps motivate that 87 percent of the homeless population to at least try to get back into their feet. My question is this, why is it we work if there are people out there living off of government money and living for free? You of all people should know were I am going with this. Try being a little bit more understanding of these things. And no I am not a a horrible person for saying this, I am simply saying that instead of giving the homeless free stuff and make them dependent of other people's money. Why don't we try to motivate or help them to get up on their own two feet and get back into society. If you don't agree with me that's fine. But before we go attacking the people who do this look at both sides.

  7. As a mental health counselor, I can attest that there are some people who choose homelessness not because of mental health or drugs, but because they don't want responsibility.

    In that case, there's no "problem' to "fix." Those people do not want jobs, and reject healthier places like shelters.

    Admittedly sometimes shelters are unsafe, but many wouldn't stay there even if they were safe.

    That being said, those shelters are unsafe because homeless persons who ARE having mental health problems or drug problems are statistically more likely to be violent or engage in thievery than the average population.

    This means that homeless camps can sometimes represent a threat. It's not always about "not wanting to see it," but sometimes it's about feeling safe, whether or not the fear is justified.

    In a different vein, some people refuse to give money even though they ache to help, understanding that giving money to the homeless directly is more likely to cause death and less likely to solve problems than giving to a charity that supports the homeless, or volunteering with the homeless. These people feel guilty when asked for money because they are helping, but not in ways that are just as likely to do damage as to do good.

    It's true–many non-homeless masquerade as homeless to get free money. Many true homeless are homeless because they went through the state System as a foster kid, but nobody took the time to teach them how to truly fit, like getting a job, doing paperwork, applying for documents, and the like, and they're afraid of it. Giving them money just lets them continue to avoid the problem.

    Giving money to a drug addict makes their overdose more likely, and the giver is an enabler.

    Giving money to a person who is mentally ill often means they can avoid returning to the center that was helping them, or postpone returning to their loved ones who were attempting to get them some treatment.

    It feels good to give, but it usually does more damage than good to give directly. Join an outreach program, and they'll teach you how to approach, what help can be offered to truly make a difference.

    In the meantime, some people near homeless camps are close to being homeless themselves, and saved to buy a house. Thanks to the public opinion of homelessness, a homeless camp nearby would decrease their property value, making this huge investment of hard-won savings take a huge hit, damaging her chances of moving to better circumstances. It may even be a threat to the single mother living there, working three jobs, while her 12-year-old daughter walks home alone past the camp every day.

    90% of the homeless wouldn't be a problem, but if that one guy loses lucidity and has a psychotic break, or that one lady gets money for PCP and gets violent, it can be a problem.

    So maybe there is something more to this kind of architecture. It's not all evil scheming by nasty politicians.

    It's a problem for which there is no good, human solution.

    I'm not saying it's "right." I honestly don't know. I can see why somebody would do it, and partially I feel that people should be able to choose to be homeless. Partially, knowing so many good homeless persons, I don't want people to judge them or stereotype them. Then again, knowing a number of homeless persons that have robbed, beaten, maimed, and even killed people, I know that the stereotype isn't entirely false.

    I am just saying it's complicated, and I feel like the Right only describes the danger, and the Left only describes the injustice.

    Until we look at the WHOLE daggum picture, not just telling OUR story, then we will not figure this out.

  8. It's well known that Seattle spends 0 dollars on homelessness. Not a penny. THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT THE HOMELESS. The homeless should be able to shoot up that sweet sweet high anywhere they want!

  9. while I get why this shouldn't be implemented against homeless people or against younger people I honestly don't get whats wrong with the skateboard bumps since benches are meant to be sat on rather than skated on it makes me worry less about some idiot falling off the bench and cracking their head open – honestly though I don't know why that makes me feel bad considering it's just the consequence of their stupid mistake but seeing someone die just because they were skateboarding is on a different level from being unable to walk because you looked down while driving – as for the thing to keep drug users from finding a vein Im not a fan of that because so long as they are persistent they will keep trying but make a mistake and end up piercing a nerve or something in which case finding a vein is the better outcome

  10. Also what you say about it being unrelated to game design isn't completely correct, well in a environment way.

    For instance say I have a cyberpunk or something game that the world is supposed to be really dystopian in, bam add things like these, especially if you want it to look semi utopia on the surface but really be very dystopian.
    Or you can do the opposite, such as supposed to be utopian? Avoid these designs, or include them and their solutions such as anti-skateboarding things, have a skate park clearly visible to.

    I just like to figure out how to take something like this and use it to create a slightly more immersive environment in my creations.

  11. Politicians: installs anti-homeless architecture

    Homeless person one: Why must this architectural design prevent us from sleeping here!?

    Homeless person two: Because they do not want us to try to sleep here…

    Homeless person three: There is only do there is try…

    Homeless person three: Manages to sleep under the bench

  12. Hiding problems is easier than solving them and justifies the salaries of politicians doing the hiding, which to them means less work for the same money so obviously they dont want to solve them, they only do the bare minimum in a way that wont too likely cause public to not vote them again

  13. on private property like that of a store front or even a town house I agree with unpleasant design. I would not want people making a mess of my place. it's the same reason why im sure everyone here has a wifi password set up in their own place.

  14. I want to know a serious opinion on this question so please read it to the end don't get mad it's smarter than it seems .
    There is a universal concept called self-governance. It basically says that a people should be allowed to govern themselves. I'm stretching the concept of bit I like to think that also applies to the individual. That people should be allowed to do what is best for themselves. If a person wants to be homeless, this is a serious concept not one to be thrown away because it's not popular, but if a person truly would rather not have Society dictate to them how they live their life in any way shape form or fashion so they decide whether to check out. If that be the case what are we to do with them. In this situation there's no government program, there's no homeless shelter, there's no feel good solution. It's simply that the person would rather not live under rules. This means the most appropriate place for them is that park bench. My question is what do we do with them?

  15. 2:43 our old tv does that whenever it turns on. It didn't used to bother me and it doesn't bother my younger brother or his friends. My parents can't hear it. But I am unlucky enough that it's at the very edge of my hearing – just where you can hear it fine but it feels like it should hurt. I would totally believe this happens on purpose as well.

  16. I will kill anyone who dislikes this video.
    slowly.
    in their sleep.
    by adding anti homeless spikes to their mattress.

  17. The lack of funding for addressing mental illness, combined with the closing of many mental hospitals (lack of funding by the government) have forced many people to live "rough"; that, and the pets they would rather have than a place to live.

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