A park bench seems like the most neutral object in the world. You sit, you gaze out at the scenery, maybe feed a few ducks, then go about your business. Well, benches are generally designed with less benign intentions.
Twitter user Isaac Azuelos shared a picture of a bench painted in a rainbow, commenting, "When you're inclusive but still hate the poor."
What's he talking about? The arms on benches are generally added at intervals that discourage people from being able to sleep on them, as a way to deter homeless people from resting there. He also seems to be implying that the rainbow is in the colors of the LGBTQ flag. They're not, actually, but it's still a cheerful coating a depressing object.
It's not just arms—all sorts of outdoor seating arrangements have additions that make it uncomfortable if not downright impossible to lay down, as people shared in the replies:
The practice is known as hostile design, and there is a lot of documentation about it, especially from activists who believe the practice is dehumanizing and wrong:
Azuelos didn't expect the tweet to go viral, but it caused quite a storm.
Eventually, the space where the bench was set up reached out to him to explain why the bench was in place—it was donated as is, they didn't weigh in on design decisions.
But Azuelos had more to say about how design is used to exclude and push people to further to the fringes of society in public spaces:
He shared other examples of benches and stones placed under an overhead that would make it uncomfortable to rest or camp out.
A lot of people have apparently never considered that homeless people might deserve a place to rest without harassment or discomfort:
But many other people had more examples and stories to share about how this type of design has changed city landscapes:
The moral of the bench story seems to be that people's compassion for the homeless often only extends until it becomes an inconvenience to them.
So think about that the next time you take a seat.
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