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I am curious to understand the engineering and design principles behind this device, which I will refer to as the half-assed rest, because it seems to be an inferior design of a normal chair or bench. It seems to be designed explicitly to be hostile to the homeless by being designed this way, but perhaps I’m wrong in my assumptions about its intended function.half-assed rest in use

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You are unfortunately most likely correct, and your description even grazed right by the official terminology for such things: hostile design/architecture.

As other answers have mentioned, such a design has some benefits. However, given that hostile architecture is a formal policy in many cities, I'd wager these benefits are more of a post-hoc rationalization, with the actual intent being to discourage their use by homeless people.

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  • $\begingroup$ "post hoc" no, there was a design of work stool that had the same butt support with a matching angled knee rest popular some 10 or 15 years ago. usually had caster wheels and I want to find another ... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Oct 6 '20 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ @SolarMike yeah, I've seen those. What I meant is merely that the thought process in designing these "perches" was probably "ok, we need a bench here. But we don't want homeless people sleeping on it, so it can't be a bench. Hmmmm... well, there's these perches people can lean on and we can say we chose them because they're better for your posture!" $\endgroup$ – Wasabi Oct 6 '20 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ The design concept is much older than 10-15 years: it occurs in the 17th-century chapel at Littlecote House, where its purpose is said to have been to prevent members of the congregation from falling asleep during sermons. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Hatton Oct 10 '20 at 10:17
  • $\begingroup$ Could one perhaps say that all three examples have in common that they're attempts to use a kludge at the conceptual design or embodiment design stage to work around a specification that is not a valid operationalization of the desired outcomes - since (what I hope are) the desired outcomes would be better served by designing decent, affordable, quick-to-build, planning-and-building-regulation-compliant homes, more stimulating sermons, and an organizational structure that gives @SolarMike a more humane workload? $\endgroup$ – Daniel Hatton Oct 10 '20 at 10:28
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Sometimes concerns such as discouraging use of the bench for purposes such as loitering or being taken over by homeless guide the design.

Also it is hard to leave a possible hazardous package on the bench covered by a rag. And if they are left somewhere on the ground it will catch the eye.

This is an efficient way of temporary comfort for a passenger till their ride arrives.

Unfortunately in many metropolitan areas the problem of homeless people is spilling over into parks, parking lots, sidewalks.

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