The hipster adds the public toilet to its habitat of tiny homes and hangouts
Teeny Tiny Adorable Spaces
In fact, most Victorian public toilets were attractive places to be – they used marble and copper and were cleanly tiled with light often provided by skylights. Some of them even had touches like goldfish in the cistern !
In some Victorian public toilets, you could get a shoe shine and have a shave and brush your teeth. Very suitable for the well-turned-out hipster.
WC or “Wine and Charcuterie”
In the last four years, the number of teeny tiny social spaces in former London public toilets is dangerously close to becoming a trend. CellarDoor off The Strand in central London is a toilet converted into a cabaret with a modern Weimar Republic feel. Rumour is that Oscar Wilde may have used the facilities – when it was a facility.
The renaming of an old water closet to “WC” (Wine and Charcuterie”) was surely ironic enough to make the Hipsters come sniffing. The rather poshly named “Bermondsey Arts Cocktail Club” is fabulously Art-Deco. Be warned, their toilet’s glass doors only cloud over when locked. Also, it’s run by an art school graduate. Nuff said.
“Attendant Café” flaunts its porcelain past – the old urinals have been re-purposed as table tops. Pizza place “Joe Public” was opened in March by the team behind “WC”.
Million Pound Toilet
A former public toilet is being sold for £1m in Spitalfields, one of London’s trendiest shopping and nightlife areas. It was a nightclub called “Public Life” that could hold about 60 people.
It is being offered by an estate agent as a “charming and quirky premises”.
It’s about 600 sq ft, which is about the minimum size of a newly built one-bedroom flat in London.
In Reading, a disused toilet converted into a one-bedroom flat now rents out at £1,300 a month.
A Travelling hipster in Moscow can enjoy a brown and creamy mushroom soup served in a toilet bowl, a swirled sausage served with three piles of steaming mashed potato or possibly a bowl of whipped chocolate ice cream. All this while sitting on a real toilet at the Crazy Toilet Café. The toilet bowls have been sealed shut to prevent any over-excitable patrons taking things a bit too far.
What hipster wouldn’t love a restaurant inspired by a Japanese cartoon character named Dr. Slump whose favourite past time is “swirling poop on a stick”? At “Modern Toilet”,the dining chairs are acrylic toilets that pull up to sinks with glass table tops. The ambiance is generated by shower heads adorning the walls and plunger fixtures containing poop-shaped lights swinging from the ceiling. Your toilet-themed meal is served in either a mini potty or tiny bathtub, and your beverage is -of course- delivered in a urinal that you can keep as a souvenir.
The food, however, is not to be sniffed at, which is maybe why “Modern Toilet” is now a chain scattered throughout Taiwan and Hong Kong, with several more planned for Kuala Lumpur, Shenzhen, Malaysia, and Macau.
Bladder Leash Not Just for Ladies Anymore
Over the past decade, 1,782 have closed. In Newcastle, population 300,000, there are none. Manchester, where over half a million people live and hundreds of thousands more work and shop, boasts precisely one.
What are we talking about? Public toilets. Hopefully, you don’t need to go because the British Toilet Association estimates there is less than one public toilet per 10,000 people in the country.
There simply aren’t enough. New York faces much the same problem. Such is the scarcity of public facilities that the NYPD issued 17,744 summonses for public urination last year – and those were just the people who got caught.
By the 1970s and ‘80s, they were becoming too expensive to maintain. According to a Times article from 1980, the same 73 toilets and nine urinals in Westminster that cost £516,960 (around $756,000) to run in 1971 cost £1.58 million ($2.3 million) just nine years later.
The hidden nature of Victorians toilets and their internal layout made them magnets for “unintended purposes”, as the British Toilet Association discreetly described the drug use, the public sex, and how shoplifters and pickpockets clogged the toilets with stolen goods and emptied wallets; this drove up the costs of keeping them in useable condition.
The “Bladder Leash” is a term I used to associate with women being tethered to their homes due to inadequate public facilities. Now, anyone can be caught on that leash – especially people with medical conditions, older people, disabled, pregnant mums and families.
Quirky projects like reimagining toilets as homes and bars may be part of gentrification but at least they are making us think and talk about public toilet spaces and why we should give a bog as they are disappearing.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.