Unpleasant design, also known as hostile architecture, is a term used to describe design features found in urban spaces that attempt to discourage certain unwanted activities. Although some types of unpleasant design are intended to curtail specific actions like skateboarding, public urination, or the roosting of pigeons and other wildlife, the general notion is most often applied to design targeted against activities like loitering or sleeping associated with a city’s homeless population — making such features frequently controversial.
Once you’re familiar with this concept, it’s hard to stop noticing examples of the practice all over most major downtown areas, and Austin is no different. Some of these designs, like divided park benches that discourage sleeping, are more obvious; others, like sloped walls and windowsills that prevent anyone from comfortably sitting, are a bit easier to miss unless you’re looking.
That’s why we’ve created a page documenting examples of unpleasant design from the downtown Austin area. We’ll update the map below with new photos and locations whenever we find them, and users can submit their own examples by using the form at the bottom.
We’re not mapping these features with the intent of making any particular statement about the ethics of their use — we just think documenting their existence will provide an eye-opening resource to anyone interested in the subtle ways design choices shape the built environment.