Homelessness in the UK has risen by more than 50% since 2010 despite an improving economy and 11-year low for unemployment. It is a huge problem exacerbated by the housing crisis and cuts to housing benefit.
Architect James Furzer is creating homeless pods to make London more comfortable for those who sleep rough. His most recent project looks at ‘defensive’ types of public benches in London used to discourage homeless people from loitering through features such as arm rests, uncomfortable slats or awkward shapes.
This, he says, shows that attitudes towards homelessness need to change. “There are many underlying political issues that need to be addressed before the issue of homelessness can seriously be addressed in the manner it requires,” Furzer said.
“I can wholeheartedly say that defensive architecture exists on an unprecedented level, and is sadly on the rise. We require a friendlier architecture to change the current perception of homelessness.
“As architects, we have a duty of care to provide shelter for those who need it. I feel that architects can help by battling against the design guide and councils that want to design the undesirables out of their towns. We can provide temporary shelters, cityscapes that perhaps provide shelter within them.”
Furzer’s homeless pods are lightweight modular shelters that attach to the external walls of existing buildings. The pods feature a timber sleeping platform and fold-down seating. Furzer explains: “Rough sleepers are constantly in the public eye with no front door to close. Through this, they tend to shut a mental door. I aim to provide them with a space for contemplation and privacy. A place where these mental doors can be opened, taking them out of the public eye for a brief moment in time, making them feel human again.”