reimagining the city as our own

Reimagining The City As Our Own: Towards An Architecture Of Inclusion (2020, 21 Min.)

A Skywatchers film in collaboration with Irene Gustafson

Who has the right to the city? Who is allowed to linger on its streets, to see oneself in its landscapes, included and represented in its conceptions of ‘the public’? Who gets to participate in the conversation about what our cities should be?

Reimagining The City As Our Own ponders these questions through a creative examination of ‘unpleasant design.’ Unpleasant design or ‘hostile architecture,’ as it’s sometimes called, is the use of design elements in public space to be intentionally uncomfortable, annoying, or unusable. Examples include strips of sharp metal, spikes on surfaces where people may seek rest, plantings, annoying or disruptive sound elements, and metal dividers on benches. These designs specifically target unhoused and poor people and deter them from using the city commons for their own needs, most notably–sleeping and socializing. And they make a clear pronouncement: don’t make yourself at home here; this public space is not for you.

Reimagining The City As Our Own considers how the ubiquity of unpleasant design in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood impacts its residents, home to the city’s largest number of working class, low- and no-income people and with the highest percentage of racial diversity in the area. And the video asks this question: how does unpleasant design’s implicit and explicit purpose—social exclusion and segregation—impact everyone and diminish our collective capacity for participation in the city?

For more information about unpleasant design, see:

Irene Gustafson is a San Francisco based writer and documentary media maker who uses documentary media to raise questions about process, position, representation and the function of media in our lives. Her work, both written and excerpts of videos, can be seen at: