Monday, February 17, 2014

Embrace the toilet!

There was a fascinating article in the Daily Mail today about Firstsite, a new multi-million £ Art Gallery in Colchester which has been labled 'the most expensive toilet' due to the fact that an estimated 54% of its visitors spend less than two minutes, popping in for the sole purpose of a visit to the loo.

I don't know much about it at present (keen to learn more) but here are some initial thoughts and reactions:

1) If the building is useful as a public toilet, then I hope they will embrace the fact! It does a credit to them! I fear that after an article like this, which has a pretty condescending tone, the instinctive reaction will often be to start restricting access, or shutting the facilities down. Mad props to them for thus far providing what is a much needed service! Surely there are ways they can benefit... in toilet advertising, extending gallery exhibitions to the loo... the possibilities go on and on!

2) I hope Colchester will take it on board! The council currently has only 12 public loos. The nearest to Firstsite seems to be Lion Walk (presumably in the shopping center?) It could be mutually beneficial for the gallery to get some council support in exchange for publicity. Make use of facilities that are already there, and presumably accessible.

3) I wonder if this is something Heritage Lottery (who funded the project) might be able to use in the future. The numbers indicate people want toilets. While 2.8 million wouldn't go a hugely long way you could do some good. Not only are toilets a noble part of British Heritage... providing new ones allows people to continue to appreciate it!

4) Cities have various social requirements for their buildings... some have a public art requirement, for example, requiring new constructions to enrich the landscape in some way. Why not a public toilet requirement, using already existing structures to provide service? That said, I am not generally a fan of that sort of sweeping legislation, because no matter how you slice it there is no one size fits all solution that will be appropriate for every community, let alone every building. Things are more successful when people want to do them, rather than grudgingly provide the bare required minimum.

Lots of food for thought.

Somewhat topically, later this week I am going to be visiting 2TheLoo in Amsterdam who are pioneers in the concept of Restroom Shops. I am very much looking forward to learning more about how they work, and will, of course, be posting when I do!

You can Visit Firstsite's website here to find out about the cool stuff they offer (besides toilets)
You can read the original article here.

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