ANTI-LIGATURE –Issues for Design -8

Post 614 –by Gautam Shah


Anti-ligature products and processes are mainly used to stop 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, locks, grills, light fixtures, etc.


Pediatric patient bed > Wikipedia image by Binodkpn

Abuses, of ‘self-harming’ nature occur with persons who may be ‘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 means 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.


Prison cell amenities > Flickr image by Global Panorama

Anti-Ligature is rather an unusual term. Ligature derives from Latin ligatura, from ligare = ‘to tie‘. A dictionary defines Ligature as:

  • a thing used for tying something tightly.
  • a cord used in surgery, especially to tie up a bleeding artery.
  • in music a slur or tie.
  • in printing a character consisting of two or more joined letters.

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).


Child-proof fence > Wikipedia image by I,Tony Wills

Anti-ligature Design is implemented for safety and security in jails, mental asylums, hospitals, children’s areas. Anti-ligature design is used for public spaces to prevent malicious damage to the property. It is used with reference to furniture, furnishings, utilities, facilities and amenities. Malicious use of architectural components, street utilities and furniture, public transport facilities, is a concern for all designers. The public misuse occurs with many intentions like: 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. This is phenomenon common to both, developed and developing countries.


Signage at Burra Bazar (Harrison st) and Strand road Calcutta India > Wikipedia image by Clyde Waddell

Anti-ligature is also increasingly used for ‘anti-vandalism’. Anti-vandalism strategies are required to prevent wilful or malicious destruction caused by removal or destruction of units or components from public or private property such as parks, bus stations, road sides or schools etc. Anti-ligature technology makes such entities no-removable.


Knocked over dummy newspaper vendor in Munich > Wikipedia image by LepoRello

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.


Water colour ART by John Orlando Parry ‘A London street scene 1835’ Wikipedia image

An anti-ligature product or a strategy 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.


Wikipedia image through National Archives and Records Administration 548273

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.


This is the 8 th article of 20 topics series on ISSUES for DESIGN

4 thoughts on “ANTI-LIGATURE –Issues for Design -8

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