The number of public toilets in London dropped 40 percent from 2000 to 2005, leaving 415 loos to serve a population of 7.5 million (or 1 lav per 18,000 inhabitants), government figures show. That’s not including the 28 million people who visit the U.K. capital each year. Compare this with Beijing, where the average salary is a 10th of London’s, there are 7,700 toilets, or one for every 2,000 people (9x more). The shortage belies London’s history as an exemplary provider of public toilets. Its first public lavatory was built in the 12th century at the site of what is now the Royal Bank of Canada’s offices. During the Victorian era, public bathrooms multiplied, and often boasted mosaic tiling and copper pipes. Such facilities have sometimes fallen afoul of new laws. The Disability Act, which came into force in 2004, requires that public toilets be accessible to wheelchair users or have suitable alternatives nearby. Rather than invest in ramps and elevators, some authorities have shut or sold older restrooms. talloway@bloomberg.net

Performing urban acupuncture, could architecture’s most modest space – the WC – save the city? The redeeming feature of this site is, as the Metropolitan Police remind us – Urination!


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