The Sneaky Ways Cities Alter Our Behavior

If you think your city is doing all it can to make its public spaces pleasant for all residents, think again. From “pig’s ears” to the "Camden Bench", Frank Swain explores the "secret tricks" cities use to make spaces uncomfortable and unattractive.
Laurie Avocado / flickr

"When Selena Savic walks down a city street, she sees it differently to most people," writes Swain. "Whereas other designers might admire the architecture, Savic sees a host of hidden tricks intended to manipulate our behaviour and choices without us realising – from benches that are deliberately uncomfortable to sculptures that keep certain citizens away."

"Modern cities are rife with these 'unpleasant designs', says Savic, a PhD student at the Ecole Polytechnique Federerale de Lausanne in Switzerland, who co-authored a book on the subject this year." 

Though such designs are often intended to cause physical discomfort, they raise some uncomfortable ethical questions as well. "Indeed, one of the main criticisms of such design is that it aims to exclude already marginalised populations such as youths or the homeless," notes Swain. "Unpleasant design, Savic says, 'is there to make things pleasant, but for a very particular audience. So in the general case, it’s pleasant for families, but not pleasant for junkies.'”

Full Story: Secret city design tricks manipulate your behaviour

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