The Eye of the Fish

April 17, 2011

Toilet Talk too

Not wanting to put too fine a point on it, but this town needs more public WCs. Come the Rugby World Cup, we’re going to be rivaling Christchurch for numbers of Portaloos deployed in the streets I suspect, for the simple reason that we don’t have enough places dedicated for number 1s and number 2s. We’ve written about this before, in a post (still one of my proudest efforts) about pissoirs – but we really need to talk about bigger stuff. You know what I mean. We need a solid effort here.

I thought it would be a simple webby thing, to find out where our current public toilets are. But the standard google map doesn’t throw up such information willingly – or perhaps I should say willy-nilly – the AA map is drastically and pointlessly incorrect (listing Greytown and Porirua, but not Lambton Quay ANZ), but eventually I find a website that fits – the Toilet Map of New Zealand! Basically, if you discount those in places such as Te Papa and the City Gallery, we have very few loos:
Waitangi Park, Courtenay Place, Te Aro Park, the base of the old ANZ in Hunter St, and one or two apparently on the waterfront. There are also places like the Embassy theatre, St James, the City Council, the FoodCourt under the State/BNZ, the Railway Station, etc, as noted on the Toilet Map – but all of these close at night, which is, to be frank, when most people go out to drink and eat – and hence may need to pee and poo.

Really, to be honest, I have to say that it is one of the few times that I agree with Rosamund Averton and the aged citizens of Waterfront Watch: this city needs more loos. Every Friday and Saturday night the owners of McDonalds all night ‘restaurants’ and assorted Petrol Stations around town suffer the ignomy of the drinking/dancing short-skirted brigade, who typically slink into the BP shop and wave frantically to the serf behind the counter, knees firmly locked together in case they suffer a little mishap while the room is unlocked… granted that Rosamund is probably safely back home by then, and so she probably doesn’t even see the worst of it. Doorways around the city get pissed in, to put it bluntly, as well as chucked up in, and even more exchange of bodily fluids that I won’t list here.

So we come then to the question of the ‘designer’ loos, the ‘lobster’ loos, the curiously shaped set of two WCs proposed for a blank corner near Shed 11 on the waterfront. Has any set of toilets attracted quite such a controversy?

Is it really just the cost that has people all afroth with indignation (last rumoured to be just under $400,000 which is down from the cool half million originally quoted). Or is it that they have a frivolous shape – designed, apparently by some anonymous pencil pusher at Studio Pacific Architecture, although, unlike their design for ‘The Rock’ aka the Airport, this one has no official name as yet.

Did Hundertwasser attract such opprobrium with the Kawakawa loos, that are now trotted out as an illustration every time a city official says Public Toilet?

Well, probably, yes. I’m sure that he did attract some flack at some stage – probably quite a lot of flack regarding the design if the Kawakawa residents are typical non-design afficieonados, although of course they are universally loved now (if indeed the boundaries of the universe extend only to the edge of Kawakawa). Tourists flock to the loos at Kawakawa now, to the extent that the loos really have put the town on the map.

Yes, the loos of a hundred waters are so popular, and are pulling in so many tourists, that they are now going to have build more loos for people to actually pee in. Last time I went there, it was definitely an odd experience to be using a WC as a busload of tourist people snooped around, snapping with a camera. ….Disconcerting.

But, at a guess, they didn’t cost a half mill. And there’s the rub. That’s the part that has got people riled up. We debated this over at Scoop, where Lindsay Shelton and others pooh-poohed the idea of “designer” loos, and yet not a word had been said at the rebuilding of toilet facilities in Courtenay Place at a cost of $600,000. That’s right – they tore down existing toilets, and replaced them with new ones, at a cost of more than the new loos on the waterfront, and yet there was not a peep out of anyone. The difference was, of course, that they don’t look “designery”. They’re plain, simple, no fuss, no nonsense. Boring as hell that no one would ever cross the road to see – the complete opposite of the proposed waterfront loo, which is as madly wacky as anything south of Kawakawa.

But we shouldn’t be getting upset at this loo. This should be just number one: the first of many. We need more loos, and they should all be architectural marvels. So: who’s for number two?

18 - 04 - 11

Out of interest – how many WCs in the $400k lobster loos compared to the $600k C Place ones?

18 - 04 - 11

Good question. The ‘lobster’ loos appear to just have 2 loos, presumably one male and one female, or perhaps both Unisex. So, that’s $200k each. Which sounds expensive – but:

There used to be, in the old Courtenay Place loos, perhaps 3 or 4 WCs I think. The new ones, when I swam past the other day, appeared to have only 2 – but I figure there might be another 2 on the other side. So, it’s probably 4 – perhaps even 6. That brings it down to $150k each if there are 4, or $100k each if there are 6. But a net gain of not very many facilities. And either half the price or 3/4 the price – again, not really that much to make a fuss about.

What if the Council had left the Courtenay loos as they were, and built another completely new set elsewhere? What if, as can be seen from the map, they had targeted putting new loos at regular intervals along the waterfront? What if the Upper Courtenay Place toilets (currently underground) were re-established? What if the loos at the end of Shed 6 were rebuilt to a somewhat higher standard?

Or, more importantly, how do we go about getting more WCs in and along Lambton Quay?

Seamonkey Madness
18 - 04 - 11

Seconded M-D.
It looks like there is room for piss- and/or shit all in there.

And those tails/arms out the back look ripe for a tourist bus/delivery truck to take out.

18 - 04 - 11

Lower Courtenay actually has 8 shiny stainless Exeloos

18 - 04 - 11

as a foreigner to this land i find the abundance of public loos fascinating. I’ll be walking around the city when all of a sudden I’m trying to figure out what I can get at a cafe or a store just to legitimise using their toilet. I still tend to use public toilets in old bank rather than ANZ public loos. Not sure why….

I think it might have to do with my upbringinging in the US. (oh if Freud could have examined the post American mind…)… But in the late 80’s/early 90’s states were out of money and couldn’t maintain their rural rest areas like they needed. They then became havens for crimes, rapes, murders, etc. (Some of them still are – the truck stop at Manassas, VA is noted for “certain” activities.” So as a teen I grew up hearing that it was far better to use gas station loos than the public loos. Despite the fact that most gas station loos were absolutely filthy, and anyone who thinks they’re safe should watch Kalifornia…

God father
18 - 04 - 11

When it comes down to it, it is a question of cleanliness rather than cost. And cleanliness, as we all know, is next to Godliness. The only public toilets I have ever found to be of suitable standard to lower my saintly bottom onto, are those protected by a gruff minder, suitably armed with a sensible CCTV system and long handled scrubbing brush.

If a public toilet is left unguarded, it will get vandalised, regardless of its level of quality. Indeed, the more anti-graffitti and anti-vandal you make it, the more of a challenge it is to the mindless cretins to try to destroy it. If you design in bare concrete and stainless steel – its sure to be trashed.

18 - 04 - 11

oo-err. If Alan is right, and there really is 8 cubicles / receptacles at the new Courtenay loos, then they are coming in at a mere $75k each, compared to the Waterfront lobsters at $200k each. I’m Assuming that they are not monitored by a minion, as Godfather notes, but are just 2 individual loos? That does sound rather pricey. I’m assuming…. a rather posh finish inside to justify the price? Heated seats? Scented bath oils? Gold taps?

Oooh, and minimus – i’m sure there must be some easy rules to avoid people getting mugged / raped / murdered in the public loos of NZ, let along America. Such as: CCTV coverage on the main doors, periodic cleaning and inspection, and lastly but not leastly, no leaving of long stabby things inside…

19 - 04 - 11

God father>If a public toilet is left unguarded, it will get vandalised

An Aussie city I used to live in had some hi-tech toilets positioned around its waterfront. Electronic doors. Piped music to deter taggers and calm vandals. Electronic toilet paper dispensers. Etc.

On the state’s anniversary night someone packed one of them full of fireworks and quite literally blew it up. I cycled past a few days after the event and it was fenced off with the door gone and the walls bulged out.

19 - 04 - 11

I guess the other thing to consider when comparing CPlace with Lobsters is that the CPlace toilets are probably used around the clock, as opposed to the lobsters which wouldn’t be (unless the waterfront changes its nature sometime real soon).

I don’t really know whether that matters or not, but if you worked out the costs on a per flush basis…

I do think that the pissoirs in your previous post point toward something much simpler and cost effective, while still being elegant in the ‘design’ sense. $400k for a couple of bogs (if it is only two) is more than a little obscene given the lack of cash circulating where it matters the most at the moment.

19 - 04 - 11

So the question arises then, as to whether the world famous Kawakawa effect can realistically take place here. The Kawakawa effect being similar to the world famous Bilbao effect, except that Kawakawa is world famous only in New Zealand…

Will tourists ever come to Wellington just to see / use the loos? Certainly it is just about the only reason to ever visit Kawakawa, which otherwise has no redeeming features. But Wellington isn’t quite that desparate yet, … it?