Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Beyond the pissoir
Prompted by my recent posts of an iron gents in Bath and a splendid pissoir in Bristol, a commenter mentioned the half-timbered public convenience at Clifton, and, as I was in the city briefly the other day, I took a walk across the greenery to find it. Here it is, huddled against the cliff by the Avon Gorge, a few yards from the suspension bridge that makes Clifton famous.
‘A bicycle shed is a building, Lincoln cathedral is a piece of architecture,’ wrote the great Dr Pevsner, defining the boundaries of his field. A public lavatory, by implication, might well fall into the mere ‘building’ category, but this one has enough marks of the designer’s effort to make it, surely, a piece of architecture. Read into this piece of architecture what you will: civic upmanship, a style verging on the rustic to fit into the green surroundings, a solid stone base to harmonize with the cliffs behind, a winning combination of grandeur and domesticity, a chance for the carpenter to show off with all those brackets and gables, generous eaves to shelter the passer-by during rain. However you look at it, the city that could produce both the suspension bridge just along the road and the grand Regency terraces of Clifton a few hundred yards away clearly thought it could do something memorable when putting up a building with an altogether humbler, though no less useful, function. The denizens of Clifton should be flushed with pride.