What were you doing on June 26th? Here at Mediamatic we worked creatively together with Christian Pagh, founder of UiWe and one of the greatest experts in Europe regarding outdoor toilets. Our goal? To come up with ideas that could transform the Dijkspark into a unique but practical bathroom experience for any kind of pee'er.
As a matter of fact, after the second inspiring Pis'talk held on June 25th, we went on with Pagh's Masterclass “Pissing in the Park”. It all started with an introductory lunch that filled stomachs and minds, getting everyone ready to make the most of Pagh's class on place branding and culture design. Eight engaged participants, active as architects, designers, researchers or employed within the city government, looked for an answer to relevant questions, such as: what does branding mean? How do you design the identity of a public space? And how can we apply this method to the developing Dijkspark for the purpose of generating a positive (pee-)experience? We joined forces and thought creatively about conceptual design interventions. We used Mediamatic's area as a test-case for the installation of public pissoirs. The latter of the project will constitute an uncommon identity feature for this new urban green space. They should be not only functional, but also sustainable and eye-catching. There are many obstacles to overcome that deserve attention: water waste and pollution, fertilization possibilities, civil responsibility, gender problems, and city aesthetics.
Clearly, there is a sense of ugency and we have to react. The first step for us was to explore the area with a "user journey", walking around to observe the place and the people who occupy it, and to produce a quality mapping of what we saw. In this way, we identified key intervention-spots, as well as site-specific qualities which we were willing to turn into imaginative solutions addressing locals' needs. Ownership, promise pleasure and invitation to belonging are only a mere slice of place branding. It also guarantees quality and enables action that takes into account existing habits and aims toward improvements. Our tour made clear that a conflict exists between the will to connect Dijksgracht with the city and the flow of people, as well as the desire for quiet from the neighboring inhabitants. A balance has to be found. We were also faced with the problem of conceiving urinals that are evident, yet not disturbing. Another challenge is represented by the fact that most of the public pee'ers coming out of Hannekes Boom late at night, find the bushes close by the bar the best place to urinate. How can we divert them in order to let them discover both a more civilized toilet and a breeding ground for innovation?
At the end of the day we presented and discussed several proposals aimed to design the Dijkspark not only as an attractive community garden, but also as a never-seen-before public urinal. Two main drives underlay our sketches: green/bio-experience and thought-provoking art. Some examples? A pis' fountain, activated by your flux, with the double function of providing a spectacle and filtering urine naturally to make it recyclable; 3P-sculptures, that is sculptures built using crystals of struvite, a phosphate mineral present in everyone's urine (which, by the way, is also a great fertiliser, did you know?); pipes collecting pee and re-directing it to water the plants we are growing; light paths using the power of pee to light up; thermographic paint to make urinals playful; a Roman-style female urinal with several degrees of privacy to enable women to relieve themselves in the area close to the barn. And believe it or not, we have much more in store for you!
All in all, we hope to disrupt despising attitudes towards pee, to encourage a respectful behaviour, and to sustain environment-friendly projects. Indeed, the Pis' Project merges coherently with other activities and studies going on at Mediamatic regarding, for instance, urban farming and life sciences. It is not an easy task, but we now have got interesting material to further elaborate on and we look forward to updating you.
Do you want to know more about Pagh's method of culture design? Read here.