Curbing bad behaviour with ‘Positive Architecture’.

By Alex Smale – Owners Corporation Manager

There is a concept within design known as “hostile architecture” it describes attempts to use built environment to modify behaviour. As soon as you learn about this you will start to see it everywhere. A common example is skatestoppers which are metal strips often on ledges and railings which are there to deter skateboarders. A more egregious example would be spikes placed on the ground to deter homeless people from resting.

From improper waste disposal to vandalism, bad behaviour is very common in strata properties. While it can be difficult to control the behaviour of residents, one thing committees do have some control over is the built environment. Committees should think about how they can modify their buildings to encourage good behaviour.

The problem with hostile architecture is that it has an oppressive effect on those who use these spaces. Coming home every day and seeing spikes or deterrents, would likely have a depressive impact on residents and does not encourage community or pride in one’s home.

There are ways for strata communities, however, to take the lessons of hostile architecture to do the opposite: amend the built environment in positive ways to encourage good behaviour. One example of this is the Oakland Buddha. In Oakland California one man was so tired of crime and rubbish being dumped on a corner in front of his house that he installed a buddha feeling it would be a neutral symbol that would deter bad behaviour. The effect the budda had was more than anyone could have expected.  Not only did the crime rate reduce and rubbish dumping stop, over time the local Vietnamese community turned the area into a shrine.

Another example within strata is a building in Melbourne that has a resident rubber duck, named “Quackers” that watches over the car park. There is a sign next to him that explains that he is there to keep everyone safe and ensure no one parks in someone else’s space.

It does not need to be as extreme as the installation of religious symbols or novelty toys, sometimes something as simple as placing a painting in the foyer can deter vandalism and have a positive influence on those who use the space.  Studies have also shown that plants and green spaces can reduce crime rates. In Japan and Scotland, blue streetlights have been installed in an attempt to curb crime and suicide.

If strata committees want to curb bad behaviour, think beyond breach notices and signs and look to the building itself. You may be surprised the impact small changes to improve the environment can have.

This article was first written for and published by The CBD News.