Anti-homeless barriers in Prague raise questions about 'hostile architecture'

According to architects and social activists, the urban make-up of Prague is becoming increasingly hostile to homeless people.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 09.12.2022 12:59:00 (updated on 13.12.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Newly installed wooden barricades at Prague’s náměstí Republiky to stop homeless people from loitering around the Christmas market were met with strong criticism last week. Prague authorities ruled them illegal and ordered their removal, sparking debate on the justness of “hostile architecture” against the homeless in the capital. 

Taiko, the company organizing the annual Christmas market, installed the fence-type structures next to the náměstí Republiky metro station in a bid to fend away the homeless.

“Quite often, homeless people sit there and make a mess,” Taiko spokesperson Hana Tietze told, adding that the barricades were installed to prevent disorder, and because the homeless “annoy the visitors of the market.”

The legality of such fences is questionable. Head of the Social Prevention Department of Prague 1 Pavel Pěnkavy said that the capital issues no permits for anti-homeless roadblocks, as it is illegal to install them. 

"No one has the right to restrict anyone in a public place” if they are simply sitting there without causing disruption, Pěnkavy said.

Shortly after the establishment of the barricades, authorities from the Prague 1 district instructed the operator of the market to remove the installation.

A rise in hostile architecture ?

The debacle surrounding the blocks at náměstí Republiky has opened a debate about so-called hostile architecture that targets the homeless in Prague. 

Prague's homeless situation

  • A 2019 survey found that 24,000 people in Czechia are estimated to be homeless; the de facto number may be substantially higher, with one study concluding there were over 70,000 homeless people in the country.
  • There are between 4,000 and 6,000 homeless people in the capital today.
  • Prague has the highest proportion of homeless people sleeping outside or "in low-threshold hostels" out of the whole country, at 1.64 per 1,000 population.

    Sources: Research Institute for Labor and Social Affairs,,

Co-founder of Architects Without Borders Karolina Kripnerová, who aims to spread awareness about architecturally ‘hostile’ public spaces, says that the number of such anti-homeless installations is increasing.

“I've been noticing the transformation of benches more recently, and daggers [bayonets or spikes] seem to be a current trend," she told

According to Kripnerová, Prague’s municipal districts are responsible for any amendments to, or removals of, current benches. Private companies are also legally allowed to place bayonets on their property, such as on a windowsill.

In an interview hosted by, architect Adam Gebrian also weighed in, saying that the practice of purposefully not installing – or removing – benches outside shopping centers was unethical.

Both Gebrian and Kripnerová referenced the area outside Prague’s Quadrio shopping center, where all benches that had originally been installed have been removed, turning it into an antisocial place.

Want to sit down? Spend some money

Famous sculptor Pavel Karous labels areas such as those outside Quadrio as being detrimental not only to homeless people, but also to the regular person.

“Today, you can't sit there without at least having a coffee,” he told as he outlines how people in some locations now have to pay in order to have the right to some relaxation.

According to Karous, public space is being changed “to make it inconvenient for people who do not spend money there.” 

Private companies that own outside space in the city are, within reason, able to choose the types of facilities they have in the area with only limited input from the government. 

Urban development sites, according to Karous, are therefore becoming increasingly hostile to homeless people as a way to deter them.

A more humane method of diverting homeless people away from public areas would be to provide them with additional support. According to, there are “50 shelters, hostels, and low-threshold day centers” across the capital. 

Architects have lost much of their “professional integrity,” according to Karous, and it is now in the hands of Prague’s city councils and architects to stop public spaces from turning into an environment that is too hostile to the homeless and public alike.


The Center for Social Services in Prague has a wide range of information and support available for people who are experiencing homelessness. It is English-friendly. The Salvation Army also offers support, as does St. Theresa Shelter Home in Prague 4.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more