The Winning Projects

Following the open call for submissions in June this year, we are pleased to announce the winning projects of the Unpleasant Design Competition!

After a long thought, the jury decided to award to equal first prizes to the projects “SI 8 DO – Social integration furniture Sevilla” by (bau)m_arquitectura and “FREE WILL” by Marko Tirnanic. The two winning projects show a strong conceptual idea and were executed very solidly, even though they have a very different approach to the theme.

The third prize goes to Ankita Thaker for her project “Maze door lock”. Please read below for an update on the story of the third prize!

The winning projects will be shown in our upcoming exhibition which will be announced shortly. They will also be featured in our Unpleasant Design publication which is scheduled for publishing in December this year. More on Unpleasant Design here:

SI8DO_ They did let me do(wn)

I prize
Social integration furniture Seville
by BAUM LAB Architecture: Marta Barrera, Javier Caro and Miguel Gentil.
Collaborators: Viktoria Tschurtschenthaler, Alexander Juretzka and Eva

SI8DO is a social-integration urban furniture, a subversive urban-intervention tool designed to improve the working conditions of those people that work at the traffic lights selling tissues.

After months of fieldwork, more than a hundred immigrants were located at Seville’s crossroads. Unfortunately most of them spend the whole day standing. Attached as a parasite to traffic lights, a simple, folded, perforated metal sheet creates both the seat and the storage shelf they need to work more comfortable. SI8DO not only highlights an unfair urban situation, but also proposes a solution.

The first prototype is now fabricated and tested. Here we present the results. Some tissues companies are interested in supporting the idea.


I prize
Marko Tirnanic

With this work I wanted to provoke thoughts on the idea of free will and possible “free spaces”, freed from control of the state and proscribed moral norms.

This work was produced on a location under video surveillance – CCTV – and it has two interrelated components. One is a security camera recording and the second is a photo that reveals another angle -within the scope of CCTV but hidden from the surveillance camera. Within this uncovered, uncontrolled and free space we shot with fifteen people trying to fill the space invisible to the camera, thus breaching the ethical norm and intention of controlling space with a camera lens. By highlighting uncontrolled public space, in the form of triangle, I wanted to emphasize trust and fear, conditionality and spontaneity, as well as other contradictions produced by two different lenses from the video and photo cameras.The two can be also seen as different perspectives that the observer could take and it could make the observer reach two different conclusions – either that the space is free of people or that people use the space. Moreover, there is a need for space that is utilised as a Social vent, contrary to the Orvel-Haksley dystopian scenario.

By opening the question of fear of judgement, one can modify the needs of citizens and force them to use only the “free space”


After the publication of our book, it came to our attention that the third prize “Maze door lock” was misrepresented as original work from Lebedev’s Defendius April’s joke, dated back from April 01 2008.

You can see all the competition entries here:

Unpleasant Design Competition

un·pleas·ant Adjective /ˌənˈplezənt/
1. discomfort, unhappiness, or revulsion; disagreeable
2. obstacles, psychological and sensual manipulation in common/public space
3. … and ways to overcome it

Open Call for Submissions


Unpleasant design is an accumulation of urban phenomena in which social control is inherent in the design solution. It is playing a significant role in the way we perceive and engage in public, semi-public and private space. Can there be such a thing as intentionally unpleasant design? Can we use these solutions to impose a code of conduct in public space? Does it solve the problems or generate new ones?

We need your design solution.

Submissions due: Friday, May 25 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday, June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)

Competition Brief

We are interested in a specific design process which we call “unpleasant design”. This process is an urban phenomenon which subconsciously invades our everyday experience. It includes persuasive design solutions aimed specifically at making people uncomfortable in public space, or changing people’s usual behaviour. For example, a Mc-Donalds chair is purposefully designed to become uncomfortable if sat on for longer than 15 minutes. A Mosquito-like sound device works as a safety and security tool for preventing youths from congregating in specific areas. It is promoted to reduce anti-social behaviour such as loitering, graffiti, vandalism, etc. by producing a high pitched sound which only young people are able to hear. Benches in public spaces in Rotterdam (and many other cities) are separated by dividers so that people can’t lay (and sleep) on them. Obviously, the latter example implies that both, a political and a design decision has been made on purpose to prevent (homeless) people from sleeping on benches. Is this really the way to deal with the homeless? Does it solve any problems?

Call for Ideas

Unpleasant Design is an intentional design process where the shape, technology or materials used in the product try to alter people’s behaviour. Most of its products are generally unfriendly and attempt to force people to do something they were not planning to do or stopping them from doing something they already were doing. Most of them can be found in public spaces and semi-private spaces such as shopping malls.

Entries due online by Friday, May 25 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday, June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)

Message for Proposals

Unpleasant Design is looking for dangerous ideas and for extreme design solutions to encourage a critical thinking about our interaction in urban daily environments.

We invite individuals and teams of professional, academic, and student architects, artists, interventionists, designers and critical writers and thinkers of every discipline to imagine unpleasant design solutions for near future scenarios. Proposals can vary from landscape planning to simple objects, dadaistic interfaces, design visions for our living rooms or technological implementations. They need to be unpleasant in some way. We also highly encourage people to develop tools and strategies for counter-acting and subverting those unpleasant design implementations. Their design could be a reciprocal response; an anti-statement to unpleasant design.

On Unpleasantness

We were looking at different examples that are to be found everywhere in European cities. From enhanced-CCTV surveillance to bench handles, various tracking and prevention systems are employed in controlling the users of public space. These systems are often neatly designed and seamlessly integrated in the existing architecture, acting in a persuasive way on its users. While preventing unwanted interactions between the authorities and citizens, these systems leave no space for discussion or disobedience.

Unlike the old surveillance systems that were equally targeting all people on the street, new systems of control have the ability of targeting specific groups – like teenagers or homeless. In this way, they contribute to a growing social segregation in cities. In most cases, the targeted problems are not solved, but moved elsewhere. And when the problem is moved, it usually concentrates in places where these policies are not applied, making them even less safe and comfortable. The application of ‘politics of exclusion’ and concentration lowers the chances of ‘naturally occurring good behaviour’.

Re-enactment of Fakir's Rest in Rotterdam on a so-called Leaning Bench, Rotterdam 2011

What all these examples have in common is their ‘unpleasantness’ for human beings. Contrary to the studies of ergonomics, these objects are designed with uncomfortability in mind. Whereas one could argue that a political decision is inherent in any design process, the difference here is that this design process stems from top-down decisions and deliberately tries to communicate subtle (instructions) messages into our common environment. They replace the agency of law and order enforcement, by simply making unwanted behaviour impossible.

Unpleasant design is crucial. It is planned in detail and its execution is delicate. This small niche of objects and apparatuses is a manifestation of local political structures which affect reality, besides being simply fashionable (like the anti-pigeons ‘needles’ to prevent pigeons from ‘landing’ and sitting on certain spaces). Objects shouldn’t look like intended to control social behaviour. Hence, they are neatly designed not to stir too much social disturbance. However, their aim to subconsciously make us feel uncomfortable bears enough space for speculation.



In our research of Unpleasant design solutions, we identified surveillance and repellent systems which are based on objects (tactile and spatial interventions), devices (sound and light) and surveillance.


  • Anti-resting bench

In the past 10 years, there is a tendency to install benches with handles in parks, at bus and train stations. The space between the handles is enough for only one person, so people sitting together on the bench are separated by handles. This way, a body of an adult person could not fit to lay down.

Rotterdam metro bench, with handle bars agains sleeping

Because the presence of homeless people in city centres is less and less tolerated, this became a very popular solution.

  • Asocial benches and chairs

For the same reason benches got handles, a new design of very short benches is introduced. These benches can fit only one person, so they prevent sleeping in public space. They are usually found in groups of three or four, presenting an image of a gathering and socialising, while actually keeping people away from each other.

  • Unpleasant to touch

After carefully examining a railing on a very tall bridge in Vevey, Switzerland, we noticed it is covered with a rough material, something of a sand-paper quality. The reason for using this material might be to discourage suicidal attempts, as the contact with the railing is already so unpleasant. On the other side, the reason might be purely hygienic, for it probably gets less dirty when nobody is touching it.

Railing on a bridge in Vevey, Switzerland that is unpleasant to touch


  • Mosquito

The Mosquito device functions as a high frequency buzz (17,4KHz) is employed to keep away teenagers from gathering in publicly accessible spaces like shopping malls, street corners, courtyards, etc. Mosquito is supposed to target specifically the population under 25. Unlike their older cohabitants, the young population should be able to hear the repelling sound buzz at 5 dB above background noise levels. In practice this age border does not function exactly as intended.

Mosquito devices mounted on a street light pole in downtown Chicago; courtesy of Dave Hoffman

  • Blue Light

Blue neon lights were successfully used in public bathrooms and publicly accessible toilets, as a means of preventing drug users from injecting themselves. Because it makes veins harder to see, it is expected that drug users will stop using these bathrooms for the aforementioned purpose.

Blue lights in a public toilet at Bonn central station; courtesy of Jurjen van Enter

  • Pink Light

Pink lights have recently appeared as a measure against teenage loitering, because they are supposed to highlight skin blemishes. When they were first installed by a resident’s association in Mansfield, UK in 2006, even though many sarcastic views were expressed in media, to the Mansfield residents it seemed like a cheap and doable solution.


  • CCTV

A lot of debate has been going on around closed circuit video surveillance in cities, since the mid 1980s when they became regularly introduced in US and later the UK. Simple video surveillance is today often equipped with facial recognition and motion tracking, to make more efficient use of the system. With the excuse of the ‘war on terrorism’, enhanced video surveillance systems have been deployed at airports, massive(sports) events, and night clubs.

Studies of the way CCTV operators identify potential threat or problems have shown that they actively discriminate against races and sexes, targeting and scrutinizing young black men or particular subcultural groups. This discriminatory practice was later integrated in CCTV systems enhanced with facial recognition techniques, to target and track individual.*

Many other examples can be identified in cities and we are always looking for new unpleasant solutions.

In this research, we also considered different strategies to overcome the unpleasantness of these designs. Re-appropriation, augmentation and flooding are some of them.


*In their book Splintering Urbanism, Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin discuss this phenomenon more in detail



  • Maximum 6 images of the work – rendering, photomontage, sketches (any orientation; JPG, ZIP or PDF format; 300dpi, 20 MB max file size)
  • If submitting a video, submission may be HD or smaller, 1920 x 1080 pixels max; MOV format; 120 seconds max length; 25 MB max file size.
  • Brief textual description (500-1000 words) with a clear indication of the concept and aims of implementing the proposal (DOC, TXT, RTF or PDF).
  • All submission material must be uploaded through the website at the time of enrolment and under the registration ID. No mention or reference liable to identify the authorship of the proposal is allowed. The authors will be referred to through their entry codes.


  • The submissions will be judged anonymously and the entrant’s name should not appear anywhere on the submission.


  • a design solution that can be employed in public, private and semi-public space.


  • Friday, May 25 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday, June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)

Awards & Publication

1st prize
– Temporary installation in public space + €400 + 10 Unpleasant Design publications/books, Exhibition in a gallery in Den Haag

2nd prize
– Extensive documentation in the publication + €150 + 5 Unpleasant Design publications/books, Exhibition in a gallery in Den Haag

3rd prize
– €100 + 3 Unpleasant design books, Exhibition in a gallery in Den Haag

All works submitted will be, if the author(s) agree, published in the Unpleasant Design publication, expected to come out in June 2012. A broad selection of entries will receive honourable mention and inclusion in an online gallery. The advisory committee also plans to curate selected competition submissions into an exhibition in Den Haag in June 2012.

Timeline/Important Dates

Call open: Monday, March 26, 2012

Questions: Monday, April 16, 2012
All questions should be sent to

Entries Submission: Friday, May 25 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1) Saturday, June 30, 2012, 6 pm (GMT+1)
Submission is fee of charge

Results: Monday, July 14, 2012

Exhibition in The Hague, The Netherlands: Thursday, July 17, 2012

Organizers & Contact

Gordan Savičić is fascinated by new issues of our contemporary existence caused by the effects of new media on subjectivity and its deep social implications. He is interested in imposing and applying the assumed (computed) reality within different realms to discuss its potential future and exploit. Main research areas around his projects include game cultures, digital and urban interventions, architecture, pervasive computing as well as open source technologies. His participation in collaborative projects and performances have been shown in several countries and received various awards, such as Japan (dis-locate), Germany (Transmediale), Austria (Ars electronica) and Spain (Arco), among others. Savičić has been teaching new media art practices at various schools and universities in the Netherlands (Piet Zwart Institute, Geert Rietveld Academy), Israel (Digital Art Lab Holon) and in Austria (University of applied arts Vienna), among others.

Selena Savić is an artist and architect from Belgrade. Graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, university of Belgrade in 2006, at the department for Urban Planning and from the Media Design department at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam in 2010. Besides architecture, Selena Savić actively pursues a critical media practice, treating the questions of the city, media and systems in general. Her work was presented at exhibitions and festivals like Cellsbutton (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), TestLab_Invisible Cities (V2, Rotterdam), Pixelache (Helsinki), Hack.Fem.East (Künslterhaus Bethanien, Berlin) Kosmopolis (Barcelona), and numerous other exhibitions in Belgrade, Brussels, Stockholm, Rotterdam, The Hague and Vienna. Since September 2011 she is working on her doctoral research, within the Joint Doctoral Initiative, at the Federal Technical Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) and the Technical Institute in Lisbon, Portugal (IST).!/unpleasanting

for questions, email:

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