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Documenting the use of defensive urban design in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

Defensive urbanism, also known as hostile, unpleasant, or exclusive architecture is used to guide or restrict behaviour in urban space as a form of crime prevention, protection of property, and order maintenance.

From benches and ledges that prevent skateboarding and lying down to surveillance and security technologies that keep a watchful eye on the city, defensive urban design has become an everyday part of our urban fabric.


It's an intentional design strategy that targets people who use or rely on public space the most - like people who are homeless and youth -  by restricting behaviours they engage in like sleeping in public and skateboarding. It also makes the city more hostile for other vulnerable residents like people who are elderly,  people who have a disability,  and young children.

This site surveys the many forms of defensive urban design that work to influence how we occupy and interact with our public spaces.

Created by Cara Chellew


Cara is a public space researcher, writer and organizer with the Toronto Public Space Committee. She is currently undertaking her PhD in Planning, Policy & Design at McGill University  and is the founder of the Defensive Urbanism Research Network.


Her work has been published in the Canadian Journal of Urban ResearchSpacing Magazine, and the Ontario Planning Journal and DefensiveTO has been featured on the CBC, Toronto Star, ONFR+, and more.

Contact:  defensiveto (at)

Featured Work

Image of two benches and first paragraph of article "Accessibility Measure or Exclusive Architecture?"
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