Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Don't Poo-Poo the Toilet: Architectural Contributions to Human Waste

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posted on 2021-11-12, 01:57 authored by Rickards, Micah

Eliminating waste is a natural bodily function, common to all, yet its protocols are evidence of a strange discomfort in society. This thesis investigates the ways in which this discomfort manifests in the architecture of the toilet, suggesting in the process that the toilet is space that is more significant than the architecture profession might acknowledge. A toilet and its accompanying infrastructure are not typically considered architecture. While a necessary feature of a building, a typical toilet must be discrete, private, with an emphasis on functionality; any particular design flair - unless it is of service to concealment - is considered unusual. Such architectural tendencies cannot be separated from attitudes to excrement, which is generally considered disgusting, worthless or dangerous. These negative attitudes are not strictly scientific or rational in their foundation ; instead, attitudes to excrement and the toilet are culture and context specific. Accordingly, the architecture of the toilet in the West is neither inherently 'correct', nor 'desirable'- rather, it is the product of specifically Western perceptions of waste, which are shrouded in negativity. In this light, this thesis argues that the architecture of the toilet should not be viewed as an unquestionable norm. Instead, the profession should be considering its responsibility to interrogate the place of waste in our society. Don't poo-poo the toilet: architectural contributions to human waste reveals that the toilet is an architectural manifestation of broader societal attitudes towards what is considered dirty. The toilet unifies all of human kind at a common, base level, and yet it reveals much about how the human world is divided into categories of clean and dirty, proper and improper, good and bad. This thesis thus offers a lens for viewing the world we live in, through the dirt of this architecturally neglected space.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter