By Adriana Arceo
UCI’s Ring Road encircling Aldrich Park is a welcoming sight for students and visitors. It is seen by many as a feature that creates a sense of unity on campus — but don’t be fooled. A closer look reveals numerous examples of hostile architecture along Ring Road, which ultimately hinders the student experience.
Hostile architecture, or unpleasant design, encompasses anything that makes it harder for people to enjoy a public space. Steven Flusty, expert in issues of hostile design, has developed terms that help identify a structure’s uninviting purpose. In his 1994 book, Building Paranoia: The Proliferation of Interdictory Space and the Erosion of Spatial Justice, Flusty provides an unpleasant design theory which suggests that due to a design’s “prickly” or “stealthy” arrangement, a piece of architecture can discourage people from loitering, skateboarding, sitting, or sleeping on an owned space. Unpleasant design can also hide the structure of a building, making it harder for people to access a certain area.
The issue of hostile architecture has become more widespread as renovations in development incorporate tactics to deter users from utilizing a certain space. Examples of these designs have materialized most recently in Washington D.C., where an individual hammered wooden dividers onto every bench in Lamont Park. As reported on by ATTN:, the image caused outrage on different social media platforms where the picture displaying the wooden dividers was shared.
As student activity on campus dies down as the weekend nears, the presence of unwelcoming designs similar to that of D.C. becomes increasingly noticeable around campus. Here are just a few examples.
One classic example of hostile architecture can be found all across Engineering Hall. Students often use the six gray benches surrounded by the satisfying greenery as a resting place if needed. The most noticeable aspect of these benches is that there are separations to section off where people can sit, which discourages people from lying down on the benches and therefore minimizes the time one would spend resting there. The design here defines the benches as a “prickly” space because of the discomfort the sitting area presents. This common theme makes it clear that students are being forced to keep themselves moving based on the chosen design of the benches.
The Student Center boasts similar unpleasant sitting arrangements to those of Engineering Hall. Here, students are faced once again with a “prickly” space since the sitting areas can be considered uncomfortable to sit on. Students notice the hostility in the structure of these sitting areas as well.
“Who are they trying to stop from lying down? It’s just so inconvenient,” said Priscilla Gil, a third-year at UCI. “Sometimes students get tired, so having benches like this sucks… It’s like they’re trying to stop us from taking a break.”
The design of these seats is meant to do just that, since students cannot lie down comfortably awaiting their next destination.
The unsavory design demonstrated by Langson Library has a great influence on UCI’s atmosphere. Unlike the aforementioned spaces, Langson Library would fall under the category of a “stealthy” space. A stealthy space can be any area that is surrounded by greenery, since it helps conceal the passageway to the entrance of a building. While many familiar with the building may simply go up the steps to the library, the structure gives off the impression that it is meant to remain hidden since its entrances are barely visible.
The sitting options in Humanities Gateway are also limited in their design. The stone benches found in the area are identified as a “prickly” space, due to the unmistakable discomfort they display. The rounded quality of the benches, although visually appealing, produce an indication that this sitting area should be occupied momentarily, since they have limited comfort to offer. The physical appearance of a space like this distracts one from the reality of the space’s intentions, which is to repel would-be users.
It is impossible to walk around Ring Road without coming across a bench or building that discourages its use. The most important aspect of this ordeal is the message of hostility it sends to students and visitors. Is the hostile nature of the architecture on campus to blame for the urgency students feel to leave campus as soon as possible?
Suddenly, it becomes apparent as to why students are in such haste to clear out on the weekends.