1. HUNDERTWASSER TOILETS, KAWAKAWA, NEW ZEALAND
You know you’ve made the grade once you have been authenticated as “the most photographed toilets in New Zealand”. Reclusive Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser designed this decorative toilet block a year before he died in 2000, aged 71. He had lived in Kawakawa, in the Bay of Islands, for the last 25 years of his life. Made entirely from recycled materials (the bricks come from a former Bank of New Zealand), the roof features vegetation replanted after construction. Warning: Members of the opposite sex are allowed to come into inspect each interior after shouting loudly – and waiting for an all-clear.
2. THE LAST PISSOIR, PARIS
Please salute Claude-Philibert Barthelot, Count of Rambuteau – inventor of the modern civic convenience (for men, of course: women were expected to control their bladders). As Prefect of Paris, Barthelot modernised the sewers, planted the avenues, installed gas lighting – and gave his name to the public urinals he installed throughout central Paris. Much lampooned, the pissoir was a significant addition to modern streetscapes. At one time there were over 1200 pissoirs in Paris. At the time of writing, there is only one left, on Boulevard Arago near the Pompidou Centre.
3. SULABH INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF TOILETS, NEW DELHI, INDIA
Gandhi argued public sanitation is a fundamental human right, along with independence, education and health care. At least that’s according to Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the world’s only toilet museum (“open for your convenience” 365 days a year since 1992). Despite the latrine humour, there’s a serious purpose. Around 600 million rural Indians still do not have access to a toilet. Yet the toilet seat is at least 4500 years old. Ironically, around 2500 BC the Harappan civilisation (in what is now western India) had water-borne toilets in their houses connected to a drainage system covered with clay bricks.
4. “KISS” URINAL, STONES FAN MUSEUM, LUCHOW, GERMANY
“What I especially like in my work is that it leaves a smile on your face,” explains Dutch artist Meike van Schijndel. However her most famous work, designed in 2000 and based on the famous Rolling Stones logo, has caused many frowns whenever it has featured in a public space. Sydney’s Ananas Bar & Brasserie joined the controversy in 2012, coming under fire from feminist Dr Anne Summers for its “misogyny”. (The urinals were left behind when Ananas moved to its new George Street location.) John Pasche, designer of the Rolling Stones logo, has identified a flaw in the misogyny critique. The original logo, including the tongue that is absent in the urinal, is a reference to Mick Jagger’s most prominent visible features.
5. DUCHAMP’S FOUNTAIN URINAL, TATE GALLERY, LONDON
This year (2017) marks the centenary of a defining symbol of contemporary art. Is Marcel Duchamp’s most celebrated artwork a parody, p…-take, or reunion of artist and artisan? The “original”, signed by “R Mutt”, has long been lost. Basically, it was a manufactured porcelain urinal seen from a different angle, placed on a pedestal, signed and dated, and entered into a high profile art exhibition in New York. Duchamp approved and authenticated several replicas made in 1964 from “glazed earthenware painted to resemble the original porcelain”, with his signature added in black paint.
6. MEN’S ROOM, JOHN MICHAEL KOHLER ARTS CENTRE, WISCONSIN, US
Don’t you just hate it when you build an arts centre in little known Sheboygan, Wisconsin – and the main reason people come is to inspect the male latrines? Brooklyn artist Ann Agee was commissioned to decorate the male toilets in 1998. With no formal training in ceramics, she decided to work in the cobalt-blue and white tradition of potteries in Delft and Staffordshire. The exquisite results – which involved hundreds of handmade tiles – feature water images instantly recognisable to locals.
7. SHANGHAI WORLD FINANCIAL CENTRE, CHINA
Are these the world’s least overlooked toilets? The so-called “bottle opener” has both male and female bathrooms on the 94th floor. “The gleaming stainless-steel urinals or bidet-style toilets have dramatic views over the bustling Bund below”. No need to book a city tour, then, but you will need to pay to go to the Observatory on the 100th floor.
8. TOTO MUSEUM, KYUSHU ISLAND, JAPAN
No country has invested so much scientific endeavour on toilet technology as the Japanese. Heated seats, unexpected sprays, hours spent consulting the toilet manual so you can just take a leak in the early hours of the morning without sending an evacuation alert to the entire hotel … Japan’s leading toilet manufacturer, Toto, now has its own museum (midway between Hiroshima and Nagasaki: is that meant to be symbolic?). Among the 950 Toto products on display are the “lavatories designed and built for the State Guest House in Tokyo, which accommodates visiting foreign dignitaries.
9. THE TRAVELLING SEE-THROUGH LOO, VARIOUS LOCATIONS
Italian-born, Berlin-resident Monica Bonvicini is an artist who “deals with sex, power and control, though there is a lot of humour in her work too”. In 2004, Bonvicini created “Don’t Miss a Sec” – a toilet seat encased within a glass box on a London street, so the occupant could enjoy the passing traffic while going about their business. The glass cubicle consisted of one-way glass. Passers-by couldn’t see the occupant. Since then, the concept has been taken up by the Unilever Foundation and UNICEF, travelling around the world to raise awareness about the lack of privacy millions of people face when they go to the loo.
10. THE WORLD’S OLDEST COMMUNAL TOILET, LA RIOJA, ARGENTINA
In 2013, excited archaeologists announced the discovery of a 240 million-year-old “dumping ground”, complete with thousands of fossilised poos left behind by massive rhino-like reptiles that roamed the earth at the dawn of dinosaurs. Like elephants and horses today, the dinodontosaurus was a 2.5m long vegetarian herd animal that defecated in communal areas to minimise the risk of contaminating its food source and to send an unmistakable sign to carnivore predators: “Don’t mess with us, we’re big and we stick together!”
Steve Meacham travelled at his own expense.