Homelessness is on the rise in London. While developers work to deliver more stock, architect James Furzer is trying to make the City more comfortable for those who sleep rough.
His most recent project is a study of ‘defensive’ types of public benches in London used to discourage homeless people from loitering — features like spikes, arm rests, uncomfortable slats, sloped bases or awkward shapes. Whilst city councils and zoning codes may encourage hostile architecture, Furzer believes it is the responsibility of architects to be more welcoming.
“There are many underlying political issues that need to be addressed before the issue of homelessness can seriously be addressed in the manner it requires,” Furzer said. “However, as architects, we have a duty of care to provide shelter for those who need it. I feel that architects can help by battling against the design guide and councils that want to design the undesirables out of their towns. We can provide temporary shelters, cityscapes that perhaps provide shelter within them.”
Furzer suggests a cityscape that creates crevices of comfort, shelters that do not deter, sleeping surfaces that provide security. To that end, he has designed homeless pods. I aim to provide them with a space for contemplation and privacy. A place where these mental doors can be opened, taking them out of the public eye for a brief moment in time, making them feel human again,” Furzer said.
“The benches show a lack of the designer’s duties being undertaken, hidden behind the noted façade of functionality. A case of: ‘Who do we want here, and who do we not want here?’” Furzer said. “I can wholeheartedly say that defensive architecture exists on an unprecedented level, and is sadly on the rise. We require a friendlier architecture to change the current perception of homelessness.”