Urban theorist Mike Davis is usually credited with coining the phrase “bum proofing,” back in his 1990 classic City of Quartz. The target of Davis’s ire back then was a redesigned bus bench, turned cylindrical so as to discourage sleeping. Countless seating areas have since been retrofitted to prevent the incursions of bums; the most popular method is install blocks mid-bench, so that any attempts at sleeping will result in torturous back pain.
Such bum proofing is a main component of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), a philosophy hatched by the same folks who brought us such wonders as well-lit parking areas and Dumpsters that “do not create blind spots or hiding areas.” Nice sentiments, but what about striking a balance between the discouragement of loitering and that whole “love thy neighbor” axiom? Bum proofing has gotten a wee bit out of control lately, with public areas now making it tougher to sit, let alone sleep. Anyone who’s ever spent time in Penn Station knows what I’m talking about—you try squeezing onto the ledge along the Acela waiting area, whose sloped walls are obviously designed to make rest impossible.
If only we could all afford an Archisuit.
(Calgary bum-proofing photo via anarchitect)