Deterrent designs are, simply defined, tools used to control social behaviour and conduct in public or semi-public spaces. They are also referred to as unpleasant designs or defensive architecture.
More and more do we witness deterrent designs being implemented in our urban spaces to control social behaviour and conduct. While understanding that a certain level of control is needed to cohabitate harmoniously, how much control is too much control? Where do we find a balance between individual freedom on one end and excessive control on the other?
The never-ending exhibition “Designs against the Homeless” at Praterstern Vienna, Austria explores the varied, intentional strategies taken by city authorities to deter the homeless (usually away from commercial city centers). Using a diversity of form and materiality, the works pick apart conventional control methods such as police watch to a more indirect approach that considers urban furniture, light, sound and new technology. The designs that will be exhibited already exist at the station. These include public benches, bins, CCTV cameras and more.
Parts of the exhibition are the exhibition guide and tags of “art citations” on the deterrent designs that are “on display”. These mark the turning point where an ordinary everyday object become an art object. The citations directly confront the public and users of the deterrent designs to the topic leaving them surprised, bewildered and often curious.
These materials are accompanied also with a website and social media networks, where people could find more information and join sharing the examples on social networks under the hashtag #designsagainstthehomeless.
This project is an artistic response to deterrent designs. It attempts to raise awareness of these designs by decoding top-down processes in order to reread the city and to initiate a dialogue with the general public on the design of our urban environments, raising questions concerning the inclusion and exclusion of particular groups in society and design for comfort or discomfort.