Public toilets get designer treatment in St Gallen

St Gallen's new designer toilets are eye-catching Keystone

If you're tired of public toilets that are vandalised and full of graffiti, St Gallen in Eastern Switzerland is the place to go. The town is giving its public conveniences a designer makeover.

This content was published on November 1, 2001 minutes

The town is launching a SFr2.4 million campaign to clean, upgrade and beautify its 31 public conveniences. The jewel in the crown of the multimillion-franc programme is a set of five “designer” loos in the centre of St Gallen.

Elizabeth Beéry, a town councillor, opened the first of these early in October. The unique “work of art” was designed by the Zurich artist, Hans Ulrich Imesch and is made of raw steel and glass.

Imesch’s bathroom masterpiece, called “Jewel”, is laid out like a drop of water. A raw steel frame traces the floor plan and a cut glass façade provides natural light for the user inside.

Chirping birds

But the aesthetics do not end with the structure. Once inside, the user hears the sounds of twittering birds and pebbles knocking together in a stream, while multicoloured lighting illuminates the cubicles.

The toilet is unisex and designed so it's easy to clean and maintain. Imesch also took into account the need for safety and made sure the toilets are difficult to vandalise.

To ensure that would-be admirers do not mistake the toilet for a piece of modern art, there is a board outside that says, "This is a WC".

"Jewel" is the first of the five designer loos to open in St Gallen.

Beéry says the campaign is important because good public conveniences improve the quality of life for the town's population and also appeal to tourists.

St Gallen's local authorities and tourist office have been calling for improved WC facilities for a long time.

As for St Gallen's other twenty or so "bog-standard" WCs, efforts are underway to clean them up and make them more inviting, although bird sounds and ambient lighting are not part of the plan.

by Sally Mules with agencies

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