Unpleasant design and how spikes have removed negotiation


‘Unpleasant Design’ is the title of a book by Gordan Savicic & Selena Savic, it was also the title of the latest episode on one of my favourite podcasts, 99 Percent Invisible by Roman Mars.

The book and podcast talk all about how design has been used in an unpleasant way to kerb supposed anti-social behaviour.

So for example spikes on benches to prevent people sleeping on them, or uncomfortable seating in bus stops or airports, pink lighting in public spaces to prevent young people from congregating. Spikes in alcoves outside buildings to stop homeless people and so on.

One of the most famous is the Camden bench that apparently tackles 29 anti-social behaviours that can be done on a bench. Wow, I never imagined a bench to be such a hotbed of bad behaviour.

Selena Savic, speaking on the podcast gave an interesting insight, she says that if a policeman comes along and you are sleeping on a bench, there can be a negotiation, and it is this ongoing negotiation process that keeps ongoing change in society. However, spikes on a bench are immutable and change can’t happen until they rust away or are removed.

This is exactly what has happened to the world, the establishment, the industrialised elite, that we all live under, has increasingly replaced the human negotiation process with immutable processes.

Where we could have had a discussion, there is now a black or white rule or system, where there are only ‘rigid spikes’ or ‘concrete barriers’.

We need to stand up to the ‘spikes’ that have removed negotiation and remain human.

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