What do you do when you need an all-genders bathroom that says ‘cool’ but all you have is a gross old men’s room with the largest urinal known to man?
This was the predicament I faced with the men’s-toilet-cum-multiarts-venue. In its heyday, the club would have enjoyed a smoky haze around the enormous bar with classy (or otherwise) gentlemen using the bar’s floor mounted spittoon and The Great Urinal Trough without a care. Now however, half a century and a lot of venue owners hence, the lovely old club needs to be less hack-spit-piss and more welcoming to performers and audiences of all genders, junk and creeds. Being that this is the only toilet on the bar-and-café side of the venue, the trough had to go. The easiest way to make a gender inclusive toilet where no one is at risk of:
a) being watched peeing by someone they’d rather didn’t
b) outing their genitals to people they’d rather not
c) being excluded from a gendered space they are entitled to
- is deceptively simple: everyone uses a stall. They all lock, they all do the flushing thing; it’s all good.
Problem 1: arts venue = no spare cash
My first idea was to simply rip the offending trough out and replace with a few extra stalls. That’s totally possible in the venue’s budget and timeframe, right? No? We don’t have any budget at all? Fine. Next option: cover the whole urinal with a large sheet of plywood making it level 10 difficulty to pee in.
Problem 2: needs to be more cute than a building site
Wood wasn’t going to fit the bill, even if I covered it in band posters and fairy lights. The only logical solution I could find (despite my abysmal plant raising skills) was to turn the urinal into an indoor planter. Since we were working only on what I could afford to donate to the space, I trotted off to h̶e̶a̶v̶e̶n̶ Kmart and picked up some large metal buckets and small pots I thought I could just pop in the urinal so the plants were easily moveable if they needed more sun or re-potting. I also went to chat to someone at Bunnings who told me that my plan for some adorable succulents would be a bad idea given the bathroom is inside, and succulents need sun, which is often if not always found outside. So I settled on some very small fern-ish babies that will just love being in relative dimness and solitude (we have that in common).
Problem 3: I am terrible at estimating dimensions
I lugged my purchases back to the space and they didn’t fit. The urinal was somehow much deeper and filthier than I remembered and the little plants made no difference. In fact, they looked like some sort of putt putt challenge for penis owners to wee around. Abandoning my plans for a modular indoor planter, I decided to go all in and fill the urinal with rocks and potting mixture like some stained metal tomato garden. I kept the metal buckets for some levels and put the small pots up higher to compliment the flattering lights that will eventually be mounted there.
The finished product:
The Great Trough is very wide and difficult to fit in one frame, but the plants extend the whole width of the room and I have already tried pulling the old urinal chain to water them. It works. A small issue I didn’t foresee: the metal doesn’t meet the tiles at the edges of the trough so at some point I’m going to need to find some sort of sealant to stop the dirt falling everywhere. Otherwise, this was a massive success! The trough is now a re-purposed decorative feature instead of a big gendered signpost as soon as you walk in the door. As for the rest of the walls and doors (which have definitely seen better days) I haven’t ruled out posters and fairy lights.