The Eye of the Fish

September 9, 2009

Taking the Pissoir

It’s interesting how conversations about value for money can get carried away, and once away, may never come back. As you may have noted, at Eye of the Fish we’ve got more worked up over the outrageous waste of tax-payers money that is the edifice called the Supreme Court (approx $50 million down the drain really) or the proposal for the National Library (which has made its own way down the drain), than we are concerned about whether a small toilet building on the waterfront costs $400k or not. While this story gives the Dom Post readers some chuckles: Fancy dunny plan provides light relief, it’s more important to debate the real issues: not just the design but whether we need toilets in the first place.

Where are the public toilets in our fair city? It is an issue that some people have been banging on about for many years, and one that the City doesn’t really seem to be taking much interest in. Rosemary Averton, one of the stalwarts of the “thorn in the side of the council” brigade never ceases to remind the Council that we are woefully under-provided in places to spend a pfennig, so to speak, and the waterfront is no different. In terms of public toilets, the ones at top and bottom of Courtenay place have been closed down for years, and there is no 24 hour facility along the waterfront anywhere, as far as I know. In our hospitality focussed city, people will keep on drinking, and the natural corollary of that is that they will need to pee shortly after that.


At the moment, the honest truth is that the private sector has been landed with the job of providing for the public. Pubs, clubs, and especially 24-hour Service Stations are the unofficial providors of the ablution blocks we build the city on. But they’re fed up with that, and often lock them at night, to save on cleaning and vandalism. We need a better solution.


One of the simplest moves that a city could make would be to just provide a small, discrete network of places to pee. Stand and deliver, so to speak. Its common throughout Europe, and a preferable alternative to having blokes peeing on your inner-city doorstep, down every back alley, or in any half decent shrubbery they can find. Yes, blokes pee all the time, behave like dogs, cocking a leg as much as they cock their snoot (interesting expression – but really, what DOES it mean?), and we need to recognise that and provide.


Perhaps better than a single $400k loo would be a network of 40 loos at $10k each. Loos don’t need to be expensive – but they do need to be there – and arguably if there was a drawcard for Wellington, then the fact that there was a loo on every 2 corners would attract more attention than one loo shaped like a armadillo. Which I think the public mean, more than an aardvark.

Actually, a loo having the ability of an armadillo to roll up into a ball when scary things are happening could be a welcome addition, although possibly somewhat hazardous to those caught inside.


But there is nothing wrong with exploring the role of the humble pissoir further. Not everything needs to be a fully disabled functioning roll in – roll out fully enclosed toilet. Nor do they only need to cope with men – there are various pissoir possibilities for women as well – although of course it used to be that women stayed at home primly waiting, while just the males went out for a booze up. The Parisians have always been happy to have a discrete facility:
As of course also have the Germans (never a race to shy away from naked bodies or bodily functions:
But in the latest incarnation of practicality, even the English have been getting in on the act and installing functional pissoirs – shown here in south London near Vauxhall Cross – just across the road from the top secret spy headquarters, where of course one might need to clandestinely hand someone a message.
The point is that its not an old-fashioned, out dated idea – the pissoir is well and truly back in style, easy to clean, hard to vandalise, and deperately needed by the desperate. So what about it Wellington?

9 - 09 - 09

Are you taking the p1ss?

As for the saying – it seems that nobody really knows…

9 - 09 - 09

d’oh – just realised that you already used that in the title, please forgive.

And, there are public loos at the bottom of Courtney Place (also Te Aro Park) – however, I suspect that there are a certain clientele that would find the doorways of Blair, Allen, Tory Streets (etc) far more convenient than conveniences, so to speak. Thus I doubt whether a more extensive loo network along there would make a shred of difference.

The waterfront is an issue though, and I don’t really think it should be incumbent upon business owners to provide conveniences for those that are not their customers – unless of course it became a mandatory aspect of the initial developments so that the design is public rather than customer oriented, and that businesses are aware of such responsibilities (maintenance, safety, etc) before agreeing to take up waterfront premises. Spending a penny, as they still do in some European establishments, could help to make this worthwhile – as I’d be wary of loading too much onus on businesses, many of which struggle to survive, but are vital to its ongoing vitality and success of the waterfront.

And I had thought that the pissoirs in London were simply installed around the bars that cater for antipodeans (for good reason) – I can’t think of any such establishments around Vauxhall Cross though.

9 - 09 - 09

You know, I really dislike using public unisex toilets because, more often than not, some dude has previously pissed all over the seat and/or floor.

Women and men have quite different uses for public toilets (hur hur hur) so while public piss units would be good for the menfolk, I’d like to see more good public toilets for women too.

9 - 09 - 09

Robyn – as the sign at the top says – and I’m sure your schoolgirl german can translate:
Fur Perverse Verboten!
No Naughty Stuff!

That’s the great thing about a pissoir as opposed to a lavatoire – there’s only room for one at a time, and so no kinky cottaging can take place, and therefore grannies remain non-outraged.

9 - 09 - 09

M-D. South of the river is a massive all night party zone in London. Ministry of Sound throw massive gigs there all the time and 9 Elms (and new Covent Garden fruit and veges market) is just nearby too