For some reason that I have not yet been quite able to put my finger on, I have formed a slight obsession with bathrooms. I don’t know where this came from or maybe I am somehow trying to avoid revealing its source but for now I’m content with just liking them. For me they are a private space, somewhere that I can be shut off from the rest of the world and can’t be seen. In hand with this comes the intimacy that bathrooms present. They are a space where you can be at your most vulnerable but still feel safe, cocooned by warm water and bubbles.
The joy of having this safety net is that it provides a license for things that you would not necessarily carry out in public. A good example of this, and something that I was interested in exploring, is singing in the shower. It’s a simple action that I assume many people do but may not admit to doing. I would never voluntarily sing in public or even in front of people that I know, mainly due to embarrassment but also because no one should have to experience that. However, when I can lock a door, turn the water on to drown out the sound and start playing some music, suddenly my inner Beyoncé emerges and I fully embrace the watery stage.
So this became a starting point for me- why does this one room enable this? –is this sort of intimacy transferable to other spaces? –what is this other ‘character’ that appears?
These questions felt quite vague to me and I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle them. After a while scrolling through internet images of bathrooms and even longer spent on the Victoria Plumb website designing my dream bathroom I came across Charles Francois Bossu, who went under the pseudonym Charles Marville, a French photographer from the 1800s who had a particular penchant for taking images of Parisian public urinals. I found them to be surprisingly beautiful structures and also quite comical. They are embellished with additional panels and sections to try and create some form of privacy for the people using them even though many of them were essentially just drains in the street. I found it interesting that although there were not really shut off from the public in any way they still gave a sense of privacy, enough to make it worth using them instead of just going on the street instead. They appear to emulate the sense that a bathroom gives but in a public setting- maybe privacy is just a shield from other people, no matter the size of it. It’s not quite the same as having a bath or shower in public but it’s a good starting point for more research.