Creative touch to public toilets?

Creative touch to public toilets ?

Not many would pay too much attention to discussing toilets and more so when it comes to public toilets. Though a lot is written about unhygienic or lack of public toilets, very few would debate on the topic in the open. However, an exhibition on design typology for public toilets in an informal housing settlement is on at Jaipur's Jawahar Kala Kendra (JKK).

'The Toilet Manifesto,' displayed at "When is Space" exhibition of contemporary architecture and space making practices in India, unleashes the possible scenario of public sanitation infrastructure in Indian cities and villages. Designed by Mad(e) in Mumbai, an young international design practice involved with architecture, urban design, interiors and landscapes, forms part of a new exhibition on lavatories for all.

Ten types of public toilets, ranging from highway and station facilities to anganwadi latrines, streets, bus stands, railway stations, parks, auditorium and even portable ones, are on display. Featuring possible designs, a history of sanitation policies and possibilities, along with different kinds of toilet technologies, the exhibition hopes to generate a conversation not only on individual toilet building initiatives, but also the wider cultural factors at play. "Our idea was, how can we transform the public toilet," asks the designer.

It explores possibilities of transforming utilitarian engineering systems into holistic public spaces integrated with every day life of people. It presents possibilities where 10 types of public toilet typologies are transformed into sustainable and sensitive public buildings. The mundane and routine activities are integrated to dignify the every day. The manifesto also works out details of technology, finance and operations for each of these imaginations, hinting at their feasibility.

It's about how the architecture of public toilets can be improved in the country and seeks to humanise and dignify the experience of public infrastructure.

Commissioned by JKK and curated by Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, the exhibition intends to converse with the ideas of Sawai Jai Singh (astronomer king who established city of Jaipur) and Charles Correa who designed JKK with Jaipur's plan as the starting point. The ideas of these two individuals became the provocation for 27 architects, designers, photographers and social scientists and artists to respond. One thing that is common between Jai Singh and Correa was the pursuit in geometry and mathematics.

"It is an exhibition on the explorations of space. An exhibition of this scale has never happened over a shorter period of time in India before and that's what makes this exhibition unique. Normally, architectural projects take nearly one to five years to complete. Here, an architect can work on concepts, articulate them in scale and material, and also test them with the public," describes Pooja Sood, director general, JKK.

Some of the interesting architecture marvels which emphasise public space on display are a residential facility on a pavement, in which an architect has experimented in creating a house in just 3 feet of space. Here the architect responds to the typologies of walls in Rajasthan to create a room within a wall inhabiting the wall itself. Made of bricks, the wall is covered in black plaster studded with stones found in the landscape on site. Within the wall, he carves out spaces for toilets, dining, cooking, sleeping, sitting and even has a garden at the top.

The bamboo landscape further constricts the space in such a way that it creates a tension with the wall. It squeezes the inhabitant through the space, gently caressing it.

" 'When Is Space?' is not just an exhibition but an experience in itself. It gives one an opportunity to think and act creatively while creating sensitivity towards public spaces. The exhibition has been visited and appreciated by architects, designers, school and college students as well as visitors to JKK who were simply awestruck looking at various installations," Anuradha Singh, additional director general at JKK told DH.

Another installation that attracts the visitors is Garden of Desire by Prabhakar B Bhagwat--a small outdoor space in the backyard, building edges, streets. Material used here was obtained on digging the ground below. The red material is stone dust usually found as waste material. The red stone reflects water deficit desert state where water is not required in lawns.

While the exhibition focuses on use of public spaces it also tells how to make it more creative. Bearing in mind the richness and diversity of rituals and beliefs, a small model of crematorium has been put on display.

Usually it's a characterless shed, but here it dignifies the last moments of meeting the person whom one will never see again.

As per the curator's note, the design is meant to provide a calm environment for each family to perform their rituals. It depicts building is a humble and spacious setting using simple natural materials in well-crafted details to provide not only durability but also a serene and dignified atmosphere inspired by the traditional open ground, river bank and pavilion setting.

Two large pavilions provide space for the last rites to be performed, often in attendance of a large number of mourners. The pavilions on a river bed like garden setting provide space for the rituals on the day subsequent to the cremation.

With entry free, the exhibition is dotted with visitors from all walks of life.

"This is kind of an educative tourism where masses can draw inspiration from the installations and replicate those. Some interesting designs of toilets, crematorium and pavements can help us using the public space judiciously by replicating the designs," Art and Culture Principal Secretary Subodh Agarwal told DH.

The exhibition also highlights importance of pavilions in north India, once built by Mughals. The work interrogates how landscape is transformed by intrusions or markings, while architecture itself gives way to landscape.

Exhibition is on till April 30 and is open to all at JKK, which has been one of the most significant buildings for architects around the country. In many ways, it embodies some of the most important ideas of Charles Correa through its open to sky spaces, its public orientation and its humane scale.

 

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