Hostile architecture may not be a term you’re familiar with, but most of us unconsciously encounter it every day. It’s a design strategy used in urban areas to control behaviour — bollards to deter cars, building spikes to deter skateboarders, slanted public seating to deter rough sleepers — and it was the catalyst for every piece in Toro Whakaara.
The latest in an ongoing partnership between Ōtautahi Christchurch’s Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) and Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Objectspace, Toro Whakaara features 10 works by practitioners of architecture, art, design and craft. Co-curated by Objectspace’s Kim Patton and Zoe Black, each work centres on a unique location in Aotearoa. Using hostile architecture as a base, the pieces explore the power and politics of that place through social interaction, occupation and the movement it allows.
“The works are vastly different,” says Patton. “But anchored within all of them is this sense that the design of public spaces and the built environment is a strong indicator of how much the users are valued and cared for.” At Objectspace, graphic designer Lindsay Yee transports the viewer behind a local fish and chip shop counter to gain a new perspective. At CoCA, artist Wayne Youle embellishes civic hardware to offset its inherent bleakness.
Showing five practitioners at each gallery, the works span mediums, themes and locations, but all seem to ask the same questions. Whose use is prioritised? Who has the best access? And perhaps most intriguing of all, who is making these decisions?