Post 599 –by Gautam Shah
Malicious use of architectural components, street utilities and furniture, public transport facilities, is fairly common, both, in developed and developing countries. The intention, if any, is to misuse the elements, vent-out dissatisfactions through anger, use the extra ordinary reserve energies, occupy time in some activity or draw attention through behaviour.
Such abuses, of ‘self-harming’ nature occur with persons who may be it “using it as a coping mechanism to relieve emotional pain or discomfort, or as an attempt to communicate distress”. Places where such ‘self-harm’ occurs, include homes, schools, care-homes, detention centres, prisons, hospitals and juvenile offenders’ remand homes. The attempts include using architectural components, hardware, clothes, adornments, ropes or linear elements for strangulation, cause cuts with sharp edges, jumping off a precipice (height related dangers), electrocution and drowning.
The acts of willful destruction of private and public facilities and amenities are also abuses. These are not intended for self-harm but physical changes, removal or destruction to parts and components at places such as parks, bus stations, road sides or schools etc. Anti-vandalism strategies are required to make such entities fixed (non -removable), temper-proof and non alterable.
Self-harm was once thought to relate to “Ligature” (word derives from Latin ligatura, from ligare = ‘to tie‘). A ligature is defined as a “thing used for tying something with a cord” Cords of silk, gut, wire, or other materials have been used as tourniquet to control venous and arterial circulation for a very brief period of time. During surgery the blood flow is also stopped by pressure blocking the cut ends of arteries. (In surgical procedures minor bleeding nodes are also hot pinched -by burning the tissue, through a cautery -cauterization).
The ligature -word was once used for joining two or more grapheme, letters or characters as a single glyph, to help faster writing or condensed expression. An example is the character æ as used in English, in which the letters ‘a’ and ‘e’ are joined. The “&”, ampersand deriving from =and-per-se (since 1st C AD was a ligature of handwritten Latin letters e and t spelling et=and). Ligature is also used in Music for group of notes intended to be played or sung as one phrase or by repeating the same syllable. Tie bars around steel of RCC columns or beams are also called ligature.
From Ligature comes a rather unusual term Anti-Ligature. If the ligature is to ‘tie’ causing a pain or harm, anti-ligature is to prevent situations or conditions where one has opportunity to cause harm. It is used with reference to furniture, furnishings, utilities, facilities and amenities. Anti ligature products and processes are meant to hamper someone from doing a hazardous act by tying, fastening or binding to something. It is a provision that discourages self-harm or suicidal tendencies of a person under stress or with mental disorder. Anti-ligature means prevent people from causing self harm by attaching ligature to door handles, hooks, hollows, apertures, locks, grills, light fixtures, etc.
An anti-ligature product or a composition is one that prevents a ligature from staying secure. The primary function of anti-ligature furniture is to deny anyone from using it as a means from which to attach anything, break it down to sharp-pointed edges, climb over to cause height related hazards, or inflict the parts on others.
Anti-ligature products or compositions are also employed for anti-vandalism. There are, though few basic differences. ‘Ligature’ in its broadest sense is related to self-harm, often non-malicious in nature. Vandalism is intentional and causes harm to ‘public’ properties, but rarely inflicts injuries to own-self or others.
The primary aim in designing this type of furniture is to eliminate the possibility of attaching a wire or cord, disassemble or break it down into smaller parts, use it for climbing or as a reach tool, lick, chew, swallow or ingest its parts or products, or use it as defensive-offensive tool.
The design strategies for anti-ligature and anti-vandalism are to form a product of single material or through substantial synthesis of sub-items. The assembly joints and fixing zones are concealed or made inaccessible. Materials are non strippable, tear-able, breakable, or one can be cut or chipped off. Design elements like sharp corners or edges, apertures, punctures, grooved joints are avoided. Components that require different textures for visually hindered or for holding grips are created from (by way of embossing, engraving, etc.) the same body-material, while avoiding any applique treatments.
Other methods of anti-ligature and anti-vandalism design include by removing access to harmful or harm-worthy items beyond reach. Mono colour and single texture items are less apparent and so less likely to attract attention.