Friday Final Review: 401 Advanced Topics Studio


Contested Seat - The Conjectural Public Crapper

Led by Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues

“A society that does not provide public bathrooms does not deserve public art.”
-Carl Andre
The unveiling of the 911 Memorial in New York was one of the most anticipated events surrounding a work of public architecture in US history. The 508 million dollar project is likely to be discussed among Americans for many years to come. Yet for all of the Memorial’s symbolic power and visibility, it provides no place for visitors to perform a basic activity that they share in common – bodily excretion. Visitors to the memorial will have no choice but to duck into the corporate commodes of Starbucks, Macy’s or take to the alleyways if they need to relieve themselves. 
This studio begins with the premise that public rest rooms are ground zero in the battle between public space and privatized space. Can we design a public restroom for the City of Los Angeles that sheds new light on this debate? 
We will design an approximately 1000 square foot freestanding restroom facility near Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. Politics aside, public restrooms present unique opportunities for architects to explore ceramic materials and fabrication techniques employed by plumbing fixture manufacturers, artists and military contractors. Central to our exploration will be slip casting. The technique is a means for creating sanitary and durable sinks and toilets and we will use it in this studio as an avenue for the exploration of modularity, surface detail and structure in architecture. Can we adapt ceramic production methods for use in the production of one off architectural components and models? Can we make architecture comprised of these components? Can we establish formal architectural design constraints linked to an awareness of the complex process of slip casting?
We will examine slip casting in depth through hands on workshops and exercises. Students will be expected to propose slip-casting techniques for the production of architectural structure and detail as well as for final presentation models and mock-ups. We will learn mold design and construction, casting, glazing and firing in order to provide us with a set of formal, logistical and structural constraints for designing our restroom. We hope to establish these constraints and embed them into digital design systems for exploring a range of design iterations. Working knowledge of a parametric digital modeling platform such as Grasshopper, CATIA, or others will be helpful. Students should be comfortable using both CNC shop tools and hand tools.