More in the architectural vein, Ren has a cool post on the Anti-Sit, a gallery of building fixtures designed to keep passers-by on their feet. Ren compares the spikes on a fire standpipe to the curved surface of an L.A. bench:
But while both images seem to fall into this category [design in the service of social policy], the bench’s design is coy. It’s almost evasive. A casual pedestrian wouldn’t immediately see that it was redesigned solely to deny a homeless person the comfort of a raised, dry sleeping platform. The hydrant design wears its mandate on its sleeve… to me it’s about honesty and design.
The honesty that troubles Ren seems to me an instance of transparency — or lack — in policy-making. Both designs “regulate” activity, but the pipe’s spikes make clear they’re saying “Do not sit on the standpipe.” The benches’ curve is far more effective than a city ordinance banning sleeping on municipal benches, but it announces its rule only to the wanderer who wants to sleep there, not to the general public, who might agree or disagree with that rule. When social or legal policy is built into dual-purpose architecture this way, it’s harder for the public to know where rules are coming from, and harder for them to challenge rules when they disagree.