The "Unpleasant Design" book is a collection of different research approaches to a phenomenon experienced by all of us. Unpleasant design is a global fashion with many examples to be found across cities worldwide, manifested in the form of "silent agents" that take care of behaviour in public space, without the explicit presence of authorities. Photographs, essays and case studies of unpleasant urban spaces, urban furniture and communication strategies reveal this pervasive phenomenon.
With contributions by Adam Rothstein, Francesco Morace and Heather Stewart Feldman, Vladan Jeremic, Dan Lockton, Yasmine Abbas, Gilles Paté, Adam Harvey and many others, the book is in an attempt to recognise this nascent discipline within contemporary design taxonomies.
216 pages, hardcover in b/w with colour images; special book sleeve in sandpaper K240 (Limited Edition: 500)
ISBN: 978-86-910911-1-8 Published by G.L.O.R.I.A Belgrade
Edited by Gordan Savicic and Selena Savic
Unpleasant Design: We use Unpleasant Design as an umbrella term for all objects, devices and strategies aimed at influencing behaviour of people in ways that benefit particular social groups. It understands a design approach in which social impact is an inherent feature, preceding ergonomics or usability in the design brief. In our research, we came across your Camden bench, and other designs you created for urban spaces. Your website is one of the rare design sites where unpleasant design is explicitly listed and embedded in the design brief. How much is your design approach influenced by the Camden commission?
Factory Furniture: The ways in which seating is used in public areas has always interested us and in particular the effect of its use will have on an area. The positioning of furniture in urban areas has its problems and can attract anti social behaviour which can be unacceptable to residents especially if it is seen as a meeting place for groups. Ultimately we just like to produce well designed furniture, but the Camden was an extreme bench for a very specific brief. We have learnt a lot from that commission but we are firm believers that if you produce a good environment the problems of anti social behaviour are also reduced.
UD:The Camden bench is not your first “unpleasant” bench, if we might call it so. You feature numerous designs that “naturally deter skaters, rough sleeping and provide minimal surface area for tagging”. What inspired you first to focus on these design features?
FF: The Serpentine seat was our first public furniture design launched in 1991 and our first foray into the world of landscape furniture. At this point we noticed some very specific points of that design when compared to what was on the market at the time and noticed it was difficult to spend much time on if you were lying down and that the seats were not so prone to tagging or to skate abuse. We identified the main points about this design which encouraged its positive use and promoted these features as a way of not only promoting the product but to also draw attention to how behaviour can be manipulated to good use in design.
UD: Could you tell us more on your design process, how do these features transform into design solutions? For example, how did you get the idea that by simply waving the surface you can address so many issues?
FF: Like so many things we found out this by pure accident although as a ‘retired’ skateboarder I knew what to look for in a grind and a simple wave can address this without having to add skate stops. In the design process we spoke not of function and form as our usual approach would dictate but of challenges, requirements and feeling of the piece, an approach we now use on most items.
UD:In your opinion, to which extent can design help us in fighting crime or terrorism? We are fascinated with this idea that crime or unwanted behaviour can be simply designed out. Is design really that powerful?
FF: Design is a tool like any other skill and when used correctly can address challenging situations and problems in the environment. It depends on how persistent the offender is, but if you want to stop unwanted behavioural problems then the Camden bench and the way it was addressed was a good start.
UD:You name these contemporary street seating needs: to deter rough sleeping, to deter drug dealing, to deter bag theft, to reduce littering, self-cleaning, ease to relocate from problem areas… So it’s basically about resisting criminal and anti-social behaviour. What would be other contemporary street seating needs? What are potential behaviours your bench encourages (providing comfort for lunch break, charging your phone, etc?)
FF: What is really strange about this bench is that, yes, it does appear to have discouraged the problems it was addressing – otherwise the local residents would have complained and they would have all been removed much like its forerunners in Camden. However, the most exciting thing about this seat is the way people use it. There is no ‘correct’ way to sit on it as it merely hints at seat spaces. As a result, it becomes are far more inclusive seat encouraging social interaction. The photo below illustrates this concept.
UD: This might be a funny one. How did you “beta-test” the Camden Bench? For example, did you invite professional skaters to perform some sliding tricks?
FF: Of course, we had a full size prototype to test and asked local skaters to grind away. Certain edges were possible but not easy to make it a regular skate hangout.
UD:In your experience, does it happen that urban furniture raises property value around it? Do you think there is a relation between real estate prices and the resistance of surrounding urban furniture to crime and loitering?
FF: There is always a relationship in real estate to surroundings and use of that environment. I doubt a direct correlation could be used to demonstrate the relationship with furniture and real estate alone.
UD:The Camden bench is described as an “inclusive design” at the Design Council website. The way we understand this is that by preventing problematic behaviours, the bench allows more people to use it and the space around it. In this respect, homeless people would, for example, exclude others from using the bench. How do you think we should include homeless people in our cities?
FF: Homelessness should never be tolerated in any society and if we start designing in to accommodate homeless then we have totally failed as a society. Close proximity to homelessness unfortunately makes us uncomfortable so perhaps it is good that we feel that and recognise homelessness as a problem rather than design to accommodate it.
UD:We read on your website that you distribute to France, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, USA, Ireland and Belgium. Why these countries? Are they particularly suffering form uncontrolled use of public space? Is Asia lacking behind?
FF: Most of our experience is in the UK only but the same problems exist the world over
UD: You state you have 25 years experience with exterior furniture. What was the most common demand for features back then and was there already a market for unpleasant design?
FF: Yes we have been doing this for a long time! The main problems we addressed then were for easy cleaning, maintenance and absence of litter pockets. The current requirements are much the same although now we are more socially conscious and therefore consider the sustainability of materials right through to its use ie, anti rough sleeping etc.
UD:What is the most radical design solution you ever applied?
FF: Camden is quite radical for a public piece. It was recently used in a Roger Hiorns installation
UD:Is there a commission or commissioner you wouldn’t work for? And why?
From Chindogu to NSA Unpleasant Design workshop given at the Urban Kinghts event gathered some inspiring designers, artists, and theoreticians around the topics of design, exclusion, discrimination and participation in the urban environment. We formed a small think tank to cogitate current trends in urban design and the social control inherent in them.
Having set for our goal a design that will enable only a particular behaviour, we considered Berlin-specific behaviours like bottle collecting, hipsters, walking with babies, drug dealing. We listed different persuasive and coercive design techniques that could target these groups (for example facial recognition software could be used to match criminals but also to distinguish whether somebody is a hipster).
In the light of the multitudinousness of ongoing protests against different forms of oppression, and the pending economic crisis, we decided to focus on businessmen. Our businessman is someone with rather uncomfortable routines, having a strict dess-code, always carrying a briefcase, always after creating profits. Although probably enjoying his income, he is somebody who has very little time for day-to-day joy, and he rarely gets to express his own beliefs. Thus, we decided to work towards enhancing the life of a businessman with a multi-purpose suite which can be worn to regular business meetings, while at the same time serving as a kit for spontaneous, sudden protest. What we came up with is a set of designs that subvert standard businessman’s outfit into an urban protesting kit.
From Chindogu to NSA was given by Selena Savic and Nikola Korac,
with participation of Seila Fernandez Arconada
Zsolt Miklosvolgyi János Brückner
all illustrations by János Brückner
We are happy to announce a talk and a workshop within the Urban Knights series of events on urban practices and real-world situations organised by Teresa Dillon.
After a successful experience at the Lift Conference in February 2013, our next design challenge is “Between Chindogu and the NSA”. At the Unpleasant Design workshop, the participants will use persuasive and coercive design techniques to invent a design which targets a specific group, behaviour or product. We will focus particularly on technology enabled discrimination. As pervasive technology enters urban space, the configuration of the built environment will eventually change. The participants will be invited to actively take part in this change.
The workshop will be given by Selena Savic and Nikola Korac.
Workshop: Tuesday, 12 Nov, 11.00 – 16.00 at Weise7.
Places are limited. Cost €20. Book directly weise7.org Talk: Tue-12 Nov, 19.00-21.00: Free Betahaus, Prinzessinnenstr. 19-20, Berlin
We hosted a sprint-workshop at the Lift conference 13 in Geneva. Around ten participants joined the occasion to develop quick prototypes for unpleasant designs after we had brainstormed through various near-future scenarios.
We asked the participants to think about the “definition” of UNPLEASANT DESIGN, searching for techniques and tactics to be employed when designing “unpleasantness”. We then created a map of possible behaviours and/or social groups to discriminate against, out of which our protoypes were to emerge from. The following two sheets show the results of this thinking process.
defining unpleasantness: tools, techniques and strategies to be used when designing unpleasantness
the ‘to forbid list’ – a map of behaviours and social groups unpleasant design could discriminate against
Two largely unexplored topics (wind and vapor, traffic light programming) were discussed, among others that we weren’t aware of (using mirrors in fast-food chains to make you look ugly while eating; to name just few). Apparently, there are streets in Geneva which hinder the so-called “green-wave” of traffic lights during night hours to slow down traffic. Having discussed several other implementations which could be found in Geneva we split into two groups.
The “People Pusher” group discussed the possibilities of using vapor machines in public spaces to spread discomfort at certain heights; to prevent sleeping on the floor with wet vapor which doesn’t climb above 30cm from ground, for example. Their prototype for the people pusher was comprised of wind turbines which should (subtle or not) direct people’s movement into directions at certain points; slowing them down or speeding up, i. e. at the end of escalators to avoid people from gathering at critical congestion points.
the ‘people pusher’ poster
The other group came up with the anti fence portable device, abbreviated as AFPD. Tiny fences along roads with a green middle lane prevent people from crossing the street at undesired points. However, their initial purpose as a divider has long gone. The initial case-study was a city in Russia but can be found in many cities worldwide. The portable device should help people to trespass the middle lane more playfully and with much more comfort.
Cobble stones, metal grids used on rooftops and staircases as well as soft ground materials are ideal structures where people with high-heels will have a hard-time. Fashionable victims risk ankle sprains and/or loosing their footwear. Interior architects might rethink carefully their material based on their clientele. The city of Lagos informs their visitor for “unpleasant” high-heel experience in its old downtown full with cobble stone.
Following the open call for submissions in June this year, we are happy to share the a selection of competition entries we received. See the winning projects here
SI8DO_ They did let me do(wn), I prize
Social integration furniture Seville (Spain)
BAUM LAB Architecture: Marta Barrera, Javier Caro and Miguel Gentil.
Collaborators: Viktoria Tschurtschenthaler, Alexander Juretzka and Eva
SI8DO is a social-integration urban furniture, a subversive urban-intervention tool designed to improve the working conditions of those people that work at the traffic lights selling tissues.
After months of fieldwork, more than a hundred immigrants were located at Seville’s crossroads. Unfortunately most of them spend the whole day standing.
Attached as a parasite to traffic lights, a simple, folded, perforated metal sheet creates both the seat and the storage shelf they need to work more comfortable. SI8DO not only highlights an unfair urban situation, but also proposes a solution.
The first prototype is now fabricated and tested. Here we present the results.
Some tissues companies are interested in supporting the idea.
FREE WILL, I prize
With this work I wanted to provoke thoughts on the idea of free will and possible “free spaces”, freed from control of the state and proscribed moral norms.
This work was produced on a location under video surveillance – CCTV – and it has two interrelated components. One is a security camera recording and the second is a photo that reveals another angle -within the scope of CCTV but hidden from the surveillance camera. Within this uncovered, uncontrolled and free space we shot with fifteen people trying to fill the space invisible to the camera, thus breaching the ethical norm and intention of controlling space with a camera lens. By highlighting uncontrolled public space, in the form of triangle, I wanted to emphasize trust and fear, conditionality and spontaneity, as well as other contradictions produced by two different lenses from the video and photo cameras.The two can be also seen as different perspectives that the observer could take and it could make the observer reach two different conclusions – either that the space is free of people or that people use the space. Moreover, there is a need for space that is utilised as a Social vent, contrary to the Orvel-Haksley dystopian scenario.
By opening the question of fear of judgement, one can modify the needs of citizens and force them to use only “free space”
After the publication of our book, it came to our attention that the third prize “Maze door lock” was misrepresented as original work from Lebedev’s Defendius April’s joke, dated back from April 01 2008. Hence, we decided to remove its content.
Nevena Boskovic and Jelena Boskovic
Belgrade has several public parks that are open 24 hours. While in other European cities parks are closed during night, because of the safety measures, in smaller cities, such as Belgrade, that is still not an issue.
However, as Belgrade has changed over time, parks outlook have been changed also. It has been achieved by expansion of the urban landscape, by removing redundant trees and bushes. While before, parks were escape from the city, because they were allowing “invisibility”, parks today are just trespassing places.
Because of the lack of privacy and short working time of public toilets, citizens are discouraged to spend longer time in the parks. Citizens are directed to the other areas, and of course to the objects of economical transactions – clubs, cinemas and more & more shopping malls. This is what goes in favor of the state, to protect the consumer society and to increase control of its citizens. What happens with our right for the privacy and individuality?
GROTESQUES AND TISSUES AS UNPLEASANT GRAPHIC DESIGNS
Maarten van der Heijden
The Grotesques and Tissues are graphic designs that can function for the (unpleasant and provocative, see below) inside and/or outside embellishment and (unpleasant and provocative) inside and/or outside ornamentation, of public, semi-public and private buildings, especially for institutions of International Law and Justice, Human Rights Institutions, museums and more. I think for instance of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
In the Grotesques and the Tissues I use the photographs the allied forces took at the liberation of the nazi concentration camps in 1945 as source images. I am working on versions with photos of other genocides as source images. Some of the Grotesques I framed ad libitum with Ottoman Calligraphies and Tugra’s.
The Grotesques and Tissues are computer generated and computer coloured photo collages in the form of (1) C-prints on aluminium and perspex, (2) lightboxes, and (3) wall-tapestries. The ‘Grotesques’ and ‘Tissues’ form the starting point for collaboration with architects and clients aimed at the realization of monumental large scale applications and combinations of them, integrated in public and semi-public structures. Three dimensional (building block) versions are possible; thin versions with led-illumination are possible, as well as very big sizes.
Because of the contradictions between on the one hand the subject/content (i.e. real photographs of the horror of the holocaust), and on the other hand the kaleidoscopic symmetrical decorative and beautifully coloured patterns, the Grotesques and Tissues have a unpleasant effect and a provocative critical function: they move emotionally, lead to thinking and provoke questions and discussions. They go against the manipulation in the public sphere and undermine the idea of ‘That which appears is good, and that which is good appears’. The effect is increased by the addition of arabic texts.
Skaters (skateboarders) all around the world’s parks have become a concern of the non-skating citizens. Skating is said to damage pavements and wall surfaces (e.g. an opinion expresses in this article on Victoria Gateway square), while people pasing by can feel unsafe when exposed to possible collisions with a person speeding on the board. Different strategies are used to deny them possible skating surfaces outside of specially dedicated skating parks. Many of these strategies involve adding screws, rings, or other metal obstacles to curbs, walls, pavement edges. These are all reactions to this newly-perceived problem, they do not necessarily have much to do with ‘design’.
To the countrary, some examples found in the city of Lausanne show that the skating-prevention thinking is already embeded in the design of some newly installed benches like the one bellow. Rings on the edges here are a built-in feature of the sitting surface.
Wth this case study, we are going to and analyse the phenomenon and consequences of ‘unpleasant design’ for certain parts of population in our cities. We will do so by focusing on ‘unpleasant design for pigeons’, which itself is a niche within unpleasant design in general.
The majority of data is collected by direct observation – watching, photographing and noting different ways pigeons are prevented from landing on facades and other surfaces. We consulted documentation from mass media advertising, focusing on online resources for pigeon-deterent devices and services. We extensively survey blogs and forums where people discussed problems with pigeons.
surveillance with cameras on the streets? nothing new.
going beyond the power of video equipment based on earth, gait recognition uses satellite imagery to recognize and trace a person by the way they walk.
###HOW TO AVOID:
never walk in sunshine (avoid having a shadow);
carry an umbrella;
ride a bike;
Cameras installed on high-ways and roads where drivers are expected to drive very fast, allow police to track the cars going over the speed limit by taking photos of their license plates and then matching the image to the number. This way, they end up simply sending you a bill without stopping the traffic and having to keep policemen on the street.
install very bright LEDs around your plate, making it impossible to photograph the number;
use photo blocker spray (http://www.motorshop1.co.uk/photoblocker.htm);
install a slave-flash, triggered when you are at risk, overexposing the photograph;
For the same reason benches got handles, a new design of very short benches is introduced. These benches can fit only one person, so they prevent sleeping in public space. They are usually found in groups of three or four, presenting an image of a gathering and socialising, while actually keeping people away from each other.
An attempt of sitting on a '1 and 1/2' bench together; Vienna, May 2011
Old benches in parks used to be put there for people to sit together, so that more than 2 or 3 persons could use them at the same time. But then, people could also sleep on them, cause their average length was only a little shorter than a real bed.
In the past 10 years, there is a tendency to install benches with handles in parks, at bus and train stations. The space between the handles is enough for only one person, so people sitting together on the bench are separated by handles. This way, a body of an adult person could not fit to lay down. Because the presence of homeless people in city centres is less and less tolerated, this became a very popular solution.
All metro stations in Rotterdam are furnished with this type of bench: cold metal and handles; Rotterdam, March 2012
Recently most European cities have been invaded by large scale commercial displays which got shamelessly embedded into buildings and façades. Their main purpose is to illuminate the visual cortex of passers-bys with brands, advertisements and short excitations. During the last decade artists and designers have been encouraged to produce content for those screens to re-appropriate this quasi-private space. Those attempts hardly ever have gotten more exciting than being purely aesthetic and decorative versions of already existing screensavers and visualizations. Other artistic strategies include attacking the gist of those LED walls.
Since most of those media façades consist of a huge multiplexed grid of single controlled LEDs, their control is based on a high-frequency pulse which can be interrupted by emitting a directed high-voltage electromagnetic impulse. By doing so, multiplexed signals get slightly distracted and some dead or glitched pixels will appear. Such a device has been proposed by Martin Kaltenbrunner in June 2011 and we are curious to see various realisations of that device popping up around the globe. I guess a couple of those devices wouldn’t be a miss at Shanghai’s embankment next to the Huangpu river. A similar even though reverse effect has been discovered by moddr_ while using a self-built LED billboard consisting of blank copper wires and an AM radio for generating sound based on the current animation. A self-explaining video of that process/discovery can be found here.
So called “Anti Wee Wee”, a simple corner intervention is intended to stop men from peeing in the corner of buildings and alleys. They are made from a triangular piece of wood or metal, angled so the pee would end up on one’s feet.
After carefully examining a railing on a very tall bridge in Vevey, Switzerland, we noticed it is covered with a rough material, something of a sand-paper quality. The reason for using this material might be to discourage suicidal attempts, as the contact with the railing is already so unpleasant. On the other side, the reason might be purely hygienic, for it probably gets less dirty when nobody is touching it.
Railing on a bridge in Vevey, Switzerland that is unpleasant to touch; September 2011
Pink lights have recently appeared as a measure against teenage loitering, because they are supposed to highlight skin blemishes. When they were first installed by a resident’s association in Mansfield, UK in 2006, even though many sarcastic views were expressed in media, to the Mansfield residents it seemed like a cheap and doable solution.
Blue neon lights were successfully used in public bathrooms and publicly accessible toilets, as a means of preventing drug users from injecting themselves. Because it makes veins harder to see, it is expected that drug users will stop using these bathrooms for the aforementioned purpose.
Blue lights used in the public toilet in The Hague City Hall; men's toilet
Blue lights used in the public toilet in The Hague City Hall; women's toilet
The Mosquito device functions as a high frequency buzz (17,4KHz) is employed to keep away teenagers from gathering in publicly accessible spaces like shopping malls, street corners, courtyards, etc. Mosquito is supposed to target specifically the population under 25. Unlike their older cohabitants, the young population should be able to hear the repelling sound buzz at 5 dB above background noise levels. In practice this age border does not function exactly as intended.
The Mosquito device patented in 2005 by Howard Stapleton, was installed in the last few years in numerous spots in European and American cities, where young people would gather and exhibit the so-called ‘anti social behaviour’.
It turned out some older (more than 25 years old) people can hear the tone but at the same time not all teenagers can hear it. It became popular amongst teenagers as a ring tone for cell phones during classes, especially the ones given by elderly teachers.
Mosquito devices mounted on a street light pole in downtown Chicago; courtesy of Dave Hoffman
A lot of debate has been going on around closed circuit video surveillance in cities, since the mid 1980s when they became regularly introduced in US and later the UK. Simple video surveillance is today often equipped with facial recognition and motion tracking, to make more efficient use of the system. With the excuse of the ‘war on terrorism’, enhanced video surveillance systems have been deployed at airports, massive(sports) events, and night clubs.
un·pleas·ant Adjective /ˌənˈplezənt/
1. discomfort, unhappiness, or revulsion; disagreeable
2. obstacles, psychological and sensual manipulation in common/public space
3. … and ways to overcome it
Open Call for Submissions
Unpleasant design is an accumulation of urban phenomena in which social control is inherent in the design solution. It is playing a significant role in the way we perceive and engage in public, semi-public and private space. Can there be such a thing as intentionally unpleasant design? Can we use these solutions to impose a code of conduct in public space? Does it solve the problems or generate new ones?
We need your design solution.
Submissions due: Friday, May 25, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)
Unpleasant design is an accumulation of urban phenomena in which social control and its inherent design are playing a significant role in the way we perceive and engage in public, semi-public and semi-private space. This page aggregates appearances of urban design processes and tools aimed specifically at people to make them feel uncomfortable or interfere with their general behaviour within certain frameworks; hence its research title “unpleasant design”. These implementations range from architectural interventions within the built environment, to electronic devices modifying and diffusing our lived environment. Our claim is that designing “unpleasant design” is an intricate process. It is planned in detail and its execution is delicate.
When talking about Unpleasant Design as an urban phenomenon, we like to refer to historical examples from the times when the meaning of ‘urban’ was being defined. For example, one can find relevant the following excerpt from the book The Bridge on the Drina by Yugoslav writer Ivo Andrić (p. 112). He talks about an ongoing negotiation process between the authorities trying to implement systematic illumination on the streets of the old casbah, and the citizens who were used to spending their evenings on the bridge, dicsussing daily topics in darkness.