I decided to write this article while surfing the net; I came across the designs of public WC and liked them; I’m not talking about ones in Georgia, of course. Each one of them brings something new and different in architect and design. A couple of days ago, while walking in the streets of Tbilisi with friends, we were met with this problem; we had to go to toilet but, of course, there were none, so we had to use ones in private establishment. But before we discuss this problem, let’s talk generally about public WC at first.
They were commonly built in ancient Rome, but by the middle ages they became uncommon, not counting few in Frankfurt, London and Basel. In the early 19th century, large cities in Europe started installing public toilets: first in Paris, then in Berlin in 1820 and in London in 1851.
There are many terms in both Georgian and foreign languages defining public toilets. This is a room or a small building containing one or more toilets which is available for everyone. They are commonly separated by sex into male and female facilities, but nowadays, because of social demands, there are more and more unsegregated ones. For example, women’s toilets are usually fitted with baby changing facility, but there are none in men’s rooms, which causes problems for single fathers. Unisex toilets were needed also for people with disabilities, who have helpers of different gender to themselves; and for transgender persons, who while using segregated toilet can be subjected to embarrassment and harassment.
Public bathrooms can be found in many places like railway stations, parks, festival areas and so on. They may be unattended or be staffed by a janitor, provided by local authority, who sometimes has her/his separate small room. In many countries it is customary to tip the attendant.
Modern public toilets often have door less entry (I’m not meaning actual stalls in the toilets), which provides visual privacy and a measure of security by allowing the passage of sound; also it deter vandalism, because there is a high chance that they can be seen. Door less entry also partly prevents the spread of disease. Because of this there are sensor-operated fixtures too and people don’t have to touch common surfaces.
Private companies can build public bathrooms and then use the space which is already their property for advertisement. Also it’s a commonly used tactic for local government to choose original, playful designs from competition. The following is few of them.
It’s been couple of years since 17 different colored public WC’s appeared in Hiroshima parks. Japanese architects from Future Studio designed them to resemble origami cranes. The restrooms are constructed entirely from concrete, with very small circular windows and used paint allows easy maintenance. The buildings have triangular angled roofs pointing north. At daytime windows are perfect sources for light and at night, there’s artificial lighting.
Architects from New Zealand created public restrooms shaped like headless dinosaurs in Wellington. Red steel armor plates cover the roofs of two structures, which each contain a single toilet cubical. Designers think that these instantly recognizable, original buildings fit perfectly in the city’s context and are very memorable.
Dutch firm ‘Lagado Architects’ have created a temporary public toilet block with wide open sections in the roof, where you can “sit and watch the sky”. Open roof creates illusion of being in nature and it’s good for ventilation. Dark green building was built for summer program and placed on playground; it consisted of two toilets, one for adults and one for children. It’s easy to fold it and move to another place. Architects wanted it to have a low-tech and outdoor feeling.
As we can see, big resources are spent on building such trivial things as public bathrooms. Unfortunately there is not such precedent in Georgia. They don’t think not only about design, but also about attending to the building; every time, before entering you pray not to suffocate on gases, or come across any other misfortunes. I’m not talking about every public toilet, but most of them are in these conditions. These buildings are favorite sites for vandals, because we don’t know how to look after thing.
It’s true, there’re a lot of things to be taken care of in the city, but it won’t be bad for government to think about this too; to build by all standards functioning public bathrooms for everyone, anytime they need it. Like in foreign countries, we too can arrange design competitions and give parks its livelihood back with memorable, funny building. We must not forget taking care of them, or all this will be in vein.
Author: Meri Khamkhadze