RA: Exclusion in the Built Environment

Reading Analysis of “Architectural Exclusion”

In her article “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sara Schindler argues the theory that architecture itself regulates human behavior.  In the first part of her article Schindler introduces the term “architectural exclusion” meaning that the build environment is often designed to discriminate against certain groups of people.  The author claims that infrastructure placement contributes to economic and social inequality, however these acts of discrimination is largely ignored by lawmakers and judges (1940).  

Schindler supports her argument by providing examples that illustrate how certain features of our built environment can control and constrain human behavior.  One example she uses is the intentional design of park benches with three seats. She explains that park benches in major cities have multiple arm rests to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them (1942).  The design of the benches serve a second function of controlling people’s behavior although it may not initially seem that way to the unsuspecting person.

 The theory that Schindler proposes in her article is important to understand because it shows how discrimination is happening today.  Lawmakers and judges craft and enforce anti-discrimination laws, but ignore how the built environment is used to discriminate.  The public is lead to think that the layout of infrastructure is created with the purpose of efficiency, without realizing how these designs are excluding groups of people (1950).

(Image found on Central Park Conservancy)

Here is a picture of the bench Schindler describes located in New York City.

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