The RIBA and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme have unveiled a range of architectural designs to revive the tradition of the great British public toilet, a project organised as part of the RIBA’s 175th anniversary celebrations.
A public loo housed in a giant classical sculptural Hercules’ head with a door similar to no. 10 Downing Street, sculptural fountains containing a 'touch-free' eco-friendly public toilet, and a circular classical ornamental lavatory building, are just three of the ideas submitted by prominent architects including Will Alsop, Robert Adam, DSDHA, Eva Jiricna and FAT.
View and comment on the designs at the BBC website.
Listen to RIBA President Sunand Prasad and architectural commentator Lucinda Lambton discuss and pick their favorites on the BBC Radio 4 Today Progamme.
Whilst the architects have come up with some innovative and playful ideas, the underlying message about the lack of decent toilet provision is a very real issue. Report after report confirms that today’s public toilets are significantly blighted by poor design and poor maintenance, resulting in unsanitary facilities, anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
People's lives are directly affected by the lack of public toilet provision: findings from Help the Aged's 2006 report 'Nowhere to Go' show that people do not readily leave their homes without the reassurance that they will have access to public toilets. This means that 12% of older people feel trapped in their own home and about 100,000 never go out. Disabled people and their carers, those with chronic health problems, and carers with young children also lack the freedom to leave their homes without adequate toilet facilities being available.
In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, public toilets were a matter of civic pride; British public toilets were the best in the world. Local authorities would compete to create beautiful facilities which demonstrated the latest developments in sanitary engineering and architecture. This project aims to revive that tradition, and to position the public loo once again as a centerpiece for urban regeneration and to ultimately improve people’s lives.