Strait Street Toilets

Concerned about the poor state of the public toilets in the city, in early 2009 we approached the local council to seriously consider an idea we had put together. Our proposal included of course a total overhaul to upgrade them to high standards, but also called for creating a sustainable project unique to the capital: five spaces which would housing an art shows in their ante-rooms before one enters the actual bathrooms.

STRAIT STREET TOILET SLIDESHOW

While having a common function, each of the five conveniences was designed according to its location within the city. The first to be opened is in central Strait Street – the red light district of early 1900s Valletta – and the design theme that modestly frames the venue is that of a decadent cabaret; a small stage, red lights and narcissistic mirrors.

The council was never against the idea, but lacked funding and a deeper initiative. So we approached one of our clients who owned a bathroom store, to support the initiative and start talks with the council to build the first one. They agreed, and together with artist Norbert Attard, the tiny room became the talk of the town, and was soon published on numerous art, architecture and travel books & periodicals.

The other four, unfortunately, never took off from the drawing board. The council once again blamed the lack of funding, but most of us know it was more due to lack of vision and cooperation between the various parties involved.

 

 

In our first proposals we imagined these ‘public conveniences’ being reinvented into a ‘cultural convenience’ whereby a generous amount of space within these bathrooms would be dedicated for exhibiting public art.

Initially, combining art with such a mundane task seemed odd to most parties involved, but when we presented our ideas to the council and to artists themselves everybody got excited. All agreed that if successful, the project would not only provide an innovative vessel for contemporary art within the city, but also an opportunity to reach the public at large (perhaps also people who would not normally attend an exhibition or visit an art museum) and expose them to contemporary art. Finally, if all the public toilets will be running art shows simultaneously, they could become a network of cultural attractions in their own right.

Images by Chris Briffa, Norbert Attard.

 

STRAIT STREET TOILETS

Concerned about the poor state of the public toilets in the city, in early 2009 we approached the local council to seriously consider an idea we had put together. Our proposal included of course a total overhaul to upgrade them to high standards, but also called for creating a sustainable project unique to the capital: five spaces which would housing an art shows in their ante-rooms before one enters the actual bathrooms.

STRAIT STREET TOILET SLIDESHOW

In our first proposals we imagined these ‘public conveniences’ being reinvented into a ‘cultural convenience’ whereby a generous amount of space within these bathrooms would be dedicated for exhibiting public art.

Initially, combining art with such a mundane task seemed odd to most parties involved, but when we presented our ideas to the council and to artists themselves everybody got excited. All agreed that if successful, the project would not only provide an innovative vessel for contemporary art within the city, but also an opportunity to reach the public at large (perhaps also people who would not normally attend an exhibition or visit an art museum) and expose them to contemporary art. Finally, if all the public toilets will be running art shows simultaneously, they could become a network of cultural attractions in their own right.

While having a common function, each of the five conveniences was designed according to its location within the city. The first to be opened is in central Strait Street – the red light district of early 1900s Valletta – and the design theme that modestly frames the venue is that of a decadent cabaret; a small stage, red lights and narcissistic mirrors.

The council was never against the idea, but lacked funding and a deeper initiative. So we approached one of our clients who owned a bathroom store, to support the initiative and start talks with the council to build the first one. They agreed, and together with artist Norbert Attard, the tiny room became the talk of the town, and was soon published on numerous art, architecture and travel books & periodicals.

The other four, unfortunately, never took off from the drawing board. The council once again blamed the lack of funding, but most of us know it was more due to lack of vision and cooperation between the various parties involved.

PROJECT TEAM: Chris Briffa, Darren Cortis, Justin Schembri, Matthew Casha.

Images by Chris Briffa, Norbert Attard.