''It was an affectionate, ironical, critical look at bathroom design - it is not only what people put in their bathrooms, but also what people do in their bathrooms, which is the secret room of the house, where one becomes metaphorically and literally stripped right down to the basics.”
Peter Greenway on 26 Bathrooms
In this short movie the English director Peter Greenway takes us inside the most intimate room of 26 different houses: the bathroom. The interiors are all different, as are their residents. The 26 letters of the alphabet indicate the movie chapters: A is for A Bathroom, X is for an Expert of the toilet. In the Victorian and Puritan tradition looking at yourself in the mirror was considered a sin. However, for the Expert of the toilet, a mirror is a very practical tool to reach every remote angle. Let's not forget that C is for Cleaniliness.
"Most English houses have really small bathrooms, I totally disapprove of that. The bathroom should be a room to enjoy, to relax, to take your time, to please the body." While she is having a bath with her baby, Cosey Fanni Tutti explains to the camera that the body, and in this case her naked body, is not only an erotic object, is a vehicle for both life and comfort.
For Mischa Badasyan the toilet is the origin of our sexuality. It is the living space in which we are most connected with architecture, on a very intimate level. Maybe this is the reason why many couples like to spend a lot of time in the toilet, just talking with each other.
The Historical Toilet
It was in the Victoria era that architects first became aware of the problem of building small houses, and subsequently, even smaller bathrooms. Even for the best Victorian architect, the main strategy was to reduce the design of the toilet as much as possible.
In the book 'Undesigning the Bath,' Leonard Koren describes those standard sanitation tendencies as "A mix-and-match collage of off-the-shelf appliances-tubs, stalls, showerheads, soap trays, faucets, and so on - combined with various waterproof surfacing materials. The industrial designers who create these fixtures and materials, working under constraints of not enough time, tight budgets, notions of sociocultural ‘average consumers,’ corporate safe thinking, and the pressure to outsell the other products in the marketplace, tend to reduce their output to simplistic, easy-to-grasp-iconographically impressive, mnemonically effective-qualities."
In 6 Apartments, Reynold Reynolds portrays six different characters who decided to not react to the warnings about climate change. In 26 Bathrooms every carachter is depicted inside his own home, with the light, the colors, the materials all part of the personality of those interviewed. However, in the 6 Apartments, the houses are decorated in a metaphoric manner that reflects the emotional state of the inhabitant.
What the two films have in common is a general sense of apathy: the personal vices, tensions and addictions of the inhabitants are not enough to reassure them. A slow, organic process of decomposition and transformation of the environment around them is taking over, independently of their will.
Within the six different worlds, the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom and the toilet are the architectural expression of their inhabitants psyche and the rational, consumerist, affective-less society they represent.
In the video analysis of Greenway, bathroom interiors present an emotional dialogue between the modern, functional sanitation architecture and the intimate life of the residents, their dreams, thoughts, and perspectives.
25 years later, in 2010, the same studio apartments didn’t change, but their inhabitants decided to isolate themselves inside, to escape from the messy and unpredictable world outside.