Hostile architecture is a design strategy that opposes the comfortable use of public amenities. Seating, ledges, and awnings are managed not through disciplinary institutions but through diffuse elements of control. This control is accomplished with intentionally uncomfortable design features. Hostile architecture targets vulnerable groups that rely on public amenities the most. Spikes, bars, uneven platforms, or lack of adequate space deter convenient and comfortable occupation, discouraging positive self-identification and the possibility of place-making.
Most city planning engages with space as static. This rigidity suggests planning engages in the construction of a certain type of space that can be considered good by ensuring particular forms of engagement. However, anyone who occupies public space knows that space is relational and emerges through interactions. Space is a mediator not a container, connecting users and those holding power over its production. Eventually, meaning appears and harmonizes as place.
For this exhibition, Phat Le and Benjamin de Boer reflect on the possibility of hospitality in urban space by performing interventions on hostile architecture, using concrete to level uneven surfaces and cover spikes. Spaces such as walkways, ledges, parkettes, and plazas that are impacted by hostile architecture are perfect areas for engaging in intervention. These actions bring conscious attention to the groups occupying these spaces, as well as the programs set against occupation. Performative actions change the perception of the programs set in place, and the programs themselves, as behavioural rules are modified through public participation. This loose playful construction of informal programming promotes self-identification.
These interventions will be left in public space. Traces of these interventions will be displayed within the gallery. These traces will take the form of straight photographic documentation and material restaging of the concrete modifications.
A panel conversation Alexis Venerus, Benjamin de Boer, Phat Le and Cara Chellew will take place on Saturday, January 25 from 2–4pm.