LSE Review of Books: Callous Objects

By Jon Dean
London School of Economics Review of Books

Callous Objects (Robert Rosenberger)Rosenberger is particularly interested in benches: a low-tech device that has multiple public uses, some of which (sitting, stretching during a run) are considered good, and others of which (sleeping) are considered bad. Rosenberger documents how this simple design – a straight flat piece of wood or metal – has frequently been adapted to make it impossible to lie down or sleep on. Think of bus shelter benches that are thin and tilted, designed for perching rather than sitting, or benches with big solid arm rests in between designated seats. Whereas once a bus shelter would offer an unhoused person plausible deniability – ‘I wasn’t sleeping, I was merely waiting for a bus’ – now it is the designers and city planners who have the deniability – ‘It’s not that we don’t care about the homeless, we just think the bench is better with arms to separate sitting people.’



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