Dezeen Magazine

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.