Royal Flush by Chris Briffa Architects


Maltese studio Chris Briffa Architects have renovated a public toilet in Valletta, Malta, inspired by the facility's location in what was once a red-light district.

The design features a stage, heavy drapes, large mirrors and a red neon installation by artist Nobert Attard.

The renovation is part of a city-wide initiative to make use of public facilities to exhibit contemporary art.

Here's more information from Chris Biffra Architects:

‘Royal Flush’

Akin to our intimate relationship with Valletta, we were very much concerned about the poor state of the public toilets in the city. In early 2009 the new, young mayor shared our concerns and started discussing a way forward.

We concluded that a total overhaul upgrading them to high standards was needed; but at the same time it was also necessary to create a sustainable project ideally unique to the capital.

In complimentary (as in free of charge) collaboration with the Valletta Local Council, we worked on initial design presentations of these facilities, which would then be presented to a private contractor who would totally execute our designs and maintain the facilities.

In our first proposals we imagined these 'public conveniences' being reinvented into a 'cultural convenience' whereby a generous amount of space within these bathrooms would be dedicated for exhibiting public art.

Initially, combining art with such a mundane task seemed odd to most parties involved, but when we presented our ideas to the council and to artists themselves everybody got excited.

All agreed that if successful, the project would not only provide an innovative vessel for contemporary art within the city, but also an opportunity to reach the public at large (perhaps also people who would not normally attend an exhibition or visit an art museum) and expose them to contemporary art.

Finally, if all the public toilets will be running art shows simultaneously, they could become a network of cultural attractions in their own right.

While having a common function, each of the five conveniences was designed according to its location within the city.

The first one to be opened is in central Strait Street - the red light district of early 1900s Valletta – and the design theme that modestly frames the venue is that of a decadent cabaret; a small stage, red lights and narcissistic mirrors.

The other four will also offer allegories to their location within the city, whether past or present, and are now in an advanced design stage.

Posted on Monday June 21st 2010 at 3:09 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • edward

    Great idea but the toilet looks like the ones in US prisons. Ouch! That’s cold.

  • Matthias

    BYOTS = Bring Your Own Toilet Seat

  • Teo

    I find it to be tacky…maybe, I cannot go over the fact that this is a toilet.
    Public toilets are places where people don’t spend much time. You do your job then you get out. It’s not a place where people stay to watch anything let alone admire art. People that don’t go to art exhibitions won’t even bother looking at any kind of artistic performance. I mean who enjoys anything if it smells like flatulence ?

    If you have the space, just divide the two, Art in one place, Toilet in the other. Separate the entrances and the ventilation.

    It’s just my take on it.

  • The renovation is part of a city-wide initiative to make use of public facilities to exhibit contemporary art.

  • Teo

    @ christian louboutin
    I understand that, I have read the text. It still remains a public facility if you separate the two by a wall. (:
    And by the looks of it, it would be so easily achieved… the concept would not be altered.

  • edward

    Can’t agree Teo. One of my sisters decorated the walls of her bathroom with small paintings and it made a huge difference in the aspect of the place. And as for flatulence, proper ventilation should help.

  • Monica

    well, Edward…
    have you ever been in a prison of US? I’ve been living in US for many years but I never been in a prison, I can’t say the same….
    but definitively, this is a good design and CB in my opinion is the best designer that Malta has….
    Public toiltes doesn’t mean not be designed, art vs. design always can be together and in this case, we can find both…..
    Just I have to say, after long time living in Malta, finaly I can find good design here as the rest of cosmopolitan European Countries….
    Congrats to the Author of this project….

  • edward

    Yes, Monica…I have been in prisons in a professional capacity. The toilet is stainless as that is indestructible and they have no seats as they wouldn’t last long. Of course they have a traditional shape instead of the unusual lines of the one in this facility.

  • Obscurity

    I basically aree with Teo.
    Why haven’t they wiped out red from what used to be a “red district”?
    Why do they have to continue to feature the original shape of the big windor on the facade?

    We (Japan) have come a long way and now new public toilets are required to have one big railed toilet for the wheel chair user (like the one in the image perhaps) and optionally a small folded table set in a wall for mothers with baby to change diapers on.

  • maltese_observer

    I live in Malta, and have seen many initiatives which have been ongoing over the past 4 years. I admire the intention to renovate the toilets, however I find the mixture of public toilet and art space hard to flush.

    Especially when carried out in such a manner where from within the cubicles one cannot see the works, but are forced to admire a screen ‘loo-ping’ (excuse the pun) advertising, which to me deflates any good intentions immediately. I do feel that the notion of art-space was thrown into the mix to make the design a little bit more relevant, so as not to just look ‘cool’.

    Unfortunately the design tries to go further than it can reach, it seeks to make a historically relevant statement, however it fails to do so as it is really a vehicle for getting more advertising into the public sphere.

    There is good design with a social relevance, which does also look ‘cool’ in Malta, perhaps Monica you should look further, and if on your journey should you come across a toilet seat, consider that I too believe that we all deserve one, especially in cosmopolitan Europe.

  • cassandra

    it's nice to see a maltese design on this website. it is quite unusual to see something like that in our country.

  • It's very funny. I find it enjoyable because of the theme.