Emma Panini, Talea

Public Intimacy

Pissing in the City

The design of public toilets can tell us a lot more about society than you expect...


Piss pattern - Pissing in Public Marina Patarnello

The majority of women doesn't sit down on public toilets.
The reason why? Next to hygienic reasons, public toilets aren't designed for women, often there is not enough space to comfortably sit down.
On the other side, private toilets aren't designed for male bodies. While domestic spaces were designed mainly for women, men were supposed to spend more time outside. Even today, female restrooms are difficult to find in many public institutions.

During the eight edition of the Pis Talk, artist Agi Haines and designer Bettina Möllring were talking about how the act of urination has moduled our environment - and the other way around. Has the unified design of (western) toilets excluded certain peeing-positions and therefore shaped our behaviour on the loo?


Sitting and squatting positions. - Bettina Möllring (D)

++Creation of a false and beautiful reality

Furthermore, the construction and depiction of the standard western toilet promotes to hide our excrements from us. The desire to separate the abject body, described by Julia Kristeva as one which "leaks wastes and fluids" from the clean and proper body results in a lot of functional ways to design toilets. The ignorance of appreciating the bathroom and the toilet as one of the most important, personal and intimate space is an expression of societys disguise of basic human needs.
How is the representation of toilets in the public discussion affecting the way we use and perceive them? We know that a toilet is much more than a clean and utilitarian space.

Agi Haines is looking at the toilet as something prosthetic - social and medical products are often designed with the idea that one size fits all. How can we overcome shame and privacy issues? For the designer, the toilet should be no longer an item which encourages discreteness but rather as prosthetic item that joins the human body to the environment. With regards to intimacy, gender differences and cultural norms, Agi re-imagined how we can improve our future selves. Bettina Moellring showed us very interesting pictures of 'toilet modifications': The design is the same, but the way to use it is always different.

Our bodies are all different, and it's time to rethink sanitary designs in order to comfort everyone.


Agi Haines talking at Public Intimacy -