Control and Constraint: Architectural Exclusion in Schindler’s “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment”

In Part One of Sarah Schindler’s Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” the author argues that features of the built environment we live in control and constrain human behavior in ways that most average citizens do not realize. Many of these constraints are exercised knowingly by city planners and those with the authority to legislate architecture and urban design. Regulations within planning codes and architectural legislation often further these constraints and exclusions. Schindler advocates that despite the fact that some authors have touched upon architecture determining and affecting day to day behavior, specifically when it comes to constraining and excluding certain individuals, very few legal scholars have addressed these problems.

Schindler demonstrates this by using the example of a park bench with three armrests, a seemingly innocent design that does not appear to be exclusionary in any way. The bench is a typical design that we would see in our day to day lives, and nothing truly out of the ordinary. But here is one thing we fail to think about: this park bench’s structure makes it very difficult for someone to sleep across it. Schindler argues that this was done intentionally to prevent the homeless from sleeping in public parks. The built environment around us continues to constrain individuals through regulations like these, intentional or not. The author sees this as a huge problem, as little has been done to address this exclusionary architecture towards certain communities, minorities, or undesirables. Schindler says that this is important and worth discussing because very few legal fields have “addressed racialized forms of geographic organization” (1952). Along with this concept, the author makes the distinction that this architectural exclusion differs because it is concerned with an infrastructure’s placement and location that excludes and inhibits access. It does not simply focus on the geographic location’s disparities in treatment.

A park bench with three armrests, designed to prevent the homeless from sleeping across it.
A park bench with three armrests, designed to prevent the homeless from sleeping across it.

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