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Homeless in a Hostile City - Part 6

Artist Nils Norman has been documenting the phenomenon of defensive architecture since the late 90s with thousands of photographs.

He writes, “Recently, as I walked into my local bakery, a homeless man (whom I had seen a few times before) asked whether I could get him something to eat. When I asked Ruth – one of the young women who work behind the counter – to put a couple of pasties in a separate bag and explained why, her censure was severe: “He probably makes more money than you from begging, you know,” she said, bluntly.

He probably didn’t. Half his face was covered with sores. A blackened, gangrenous-looking toe protruded from a hole in his ancient shoe. His left hand looked mangled and was covered in dry blood from some recent accident or fight.

I pointed this out. Ruth was unmoved by my protestations. “I don’t care,” she said...

"They’re a menace. Animals.”

It’s precisely this viewpoint that hostile architecture upholds. That the destitute are a different species altogether; inferior and responsible for their demise. Like pigeons to be shooed away; urban foxes disturbing our slumber with their screams.

“Shame on you,” jumped in Libby, the older lady who works at the bakery. “That is someone’s son you’re talking about.”

(Continued in Part 7)


'Homeless in a Hostile City' is a collection of ten short stories that highlight the social and emotional impact of hostile architecture in urban centres around the world.

This May 26th and 27th, the City of Toronto makes an event out of opening its doors to the public. At the same time, the city installs and supports the installation of defensive or hostile architecture designed to shoo people away.

There is a dichotomy between DoorsOpenTO and the City's use of defensive architecture.

“Making our urban environment hostile breeds hardness and isolation. It makes life a little uglier for all of us.”


Source: 'Homeless in a Hostile City' is based on a February 2015 article in The Guardian.




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