Take Time To Smell The Flowers

With the start of summer, we have the hiking season well underway in the temperate rain forest of the Pacific Northwest. Our familiarity with the Spartan restroom facilities at the parks and trailheads is being renewed, and the Forest Service is to be commended for their efforts to make us comfortable. However, after browsing Karen Cast’s thesis (1), I began to wonder what delights might be awaiting us in future seasons.

I had missed the trend in contemporary culture to make the male restroom a center of sculptural utilitarianism fused with a baroque whimsy. The now well known nudge approach to improving male erraticism employed at Schipol Airport and elsewhere, of an imprinted image of a fly, which is irresistible to any red-blooded male, pales into insignificance compared to the floral designs of a Sorenson or Clark, let alone a brass tuba.

A common reaction to gentlemen who rush into such establishments to be faced with an array of brightly colored orchids which are thirty inches across, is not to water the flowers, but to rush out and drag their wives in to enjoy the floral display. The video links at the endnotes of Ms. Cast’s thesis demonstrate the enjoyment and awe the sights produce.

The aestheticization movement is occurring world-wide and is now clearly out of the closet. There is “The Toilet Bowl Restaurant” in Taipei where the seats are toilet bowls and the plates are miniature squashed toilets. For the more sporty amongst us, there are urinals with soccer goal posts and a ball or even ones with computer games for the addicts.

Advertising agencies have not missed the opportunity either. It is possible to advertise your wares with a picture backed with flashing lights and musical accompaniment in an interactive mode. More exciting, but less interactive, is the Japanese closet where you find yourself sitting on the edge of a virtual ski jump. I suspect the fear factor is supposed to aid you in your endeavors.

A PDF of Ms. Cast’s thesis can be downloaded via a link at the J. Improbable Res. (2) and photographs of Mr. Clark’s beautiful and practical artwork can be found on his website (3).

  1. K. R. Cast, “Examining the Male Restroom as a Site of Visual and Material Culture in the Twenty-First Century,” MA Thesis, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, 2009
  2. http://improbable.com/
  3. http://www.clarkmade.com/urinals.html

2 Responses so far.

  1. I like the graph one. the flowers are too pretty but very interseting.

  2. We all enjoy an aesthetic uplifting experience in unexpected places. However, sitting atop a virtual olympic ski jump must surely be worth a large entry fee.

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