Bike rack benches and fancy granite

Two years ago this month I wrote about some new un-sleepable benches that were coming to Victoria at Douglas and Pandora. These hot-hot defensive architecture concepts included benches with gaps:

Gaps on a then-proposed bench design at 1515 Douglas. Image source: Submission to Victoria Council.

Gaps on a then-proposed bench design at 1515 Douglas. Image source: Submission to Victoria Council.

And benches with gaps and bike racks that would make it impossible to lie down:

Gaps and bike racks on a then-proposed bench design. Image source: Submission to Victoria Council.

Gaps and bike racks on a then-proposed bench design. Image source: Submission to Victoria Council.

If you’ve been waiting all this time to visit (but definitely not sleep on) these defensive benches, now’s your chance! Those defensive designs have turned into defensive reality:

These bench designs were in documents that were reviewed and approved by the previous city council, including an agreement that the new “public” square would stay private. Even if someone found a way to use this space to rest, the city signed an agreement that says the company can kick people out or “bar entry” for reasons ranging from loitering to being unconscious.

“Loitering” rules are regularly applied disproportionately to different groups of people. Sit somewhere with a laptop? Sure, maybe. A different person sitting in the same place with a shopping cart? “Excuse me, but we signed an agreement with the city…”

There’s no skateboarding here either of course — that might be “disruptive,” “disorderly” or “otherwise creat[e] a nuisance,” which the city and developer agreed wouldn’t be allowed. So instead we get metal clips, protruding metal barriers and gaps carved out of the concrete and “Peribonka granite.” Only the best skater haters for these cold benches:

If a skateboarder tried to grind on these ledges, the theory goes, they might trip, so maybe they won’t try. Gotta keep those skaters away, lest they bother some old people or — heaven forbid — scratch the Peribonka.

Public traps and benches designed to keep people from sleeping. Totally normal and human approaches to design, right across from city hall.

Defensive architecture across from Victoria city hall.

Defensive architecture across from Victoria city hall.

Stephen Harrison