Converted Conveniences: 10 Transformed Public Toilets of the World

attendant-2 (Image: via Facebook; Attendant, a repurposed public toilet in London)

The public convenience has become something of a rarity in the UK and other parts of the world. Once a common sighting on most high streets, many cash-strapped councils are now no longer willing or able to keep them open, which has resulted in countless water closets seeing their flushes flushed for the last time. Thankfully, these quirky and often architecturally rich spaces have been finding new life due to the inventive minds of numerous entrepreneurs.

Attendant (London, UK)


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This is a test (Images: Attendant via Facebook)

This former Victorian loo was left to quietly gather dust for 50 years before it underwent a two year restoration to become an award-winning breakfast and espresso bar. Located in central London and identified by its ornate ironwork entrance, customers are invited down the steps where a compact kitchen area serves up breakfast and lunch dishes. Customers can then perch with their pick-me-up at the original 1890’s urinals, which have been cleaned up and turned into individual booths.

No doubt, a place best enjoyed without pondering too much on the past. And no, Attendant doesn’t have a toilet.

The Edwardian Cloakroom (Bristol, UK)


edwardian-cloakroom-bristol-2 (Images: mtx)

Rather than selling off this Grade 1 listed Edwardian toilet in Bristol, the local council kept hold of it and, following conservation of the local area, turned it into an art-space.

Built in 1904 in a style typical to the area at the time, the toilet features individual Ladies and Gents blocks, which local artists are able to hire out free of charge to use as exhibition spaces.

Instead of tail-coated gentleman and well-to-do women, the black and white tiled floor and wood-panelled cubicles have seen visitors coming in to view pop-up shops, art shows, installations and even plays.

Cellar Door (Covent Garden, London)

cellar-door-covent-garden-london (Image: Ewan Munro)

A speakeasy-style bar has emerged from this underground Victorian toilet, which was supposedly graced by the likes of Oscar Wilde. Hidden away in Covent Garden, the intimate venue can pack a crowd of 60 and features cabaret shows, burlesque and open-mic evenings. In keeping with the retro style of the establishment, the bar, serving all the usual vices, also includes a variety of snuff.

To top it off, the state-of-the-art toilets apparently frost over while you’re in them so you can maintain your dignity whilst still watching the show.

The Temple (Manchester, UK)



the-temple-great-bridgewater-street-manchester (Images: hellabellaNeil CurryDiego’s sideburnsDominic RobertsSteve Garry)

Less swanky than your typical London conversion, the Temple in Manchester is more what you’d expect of a toilet turned bar. Formerly known as the Temple of Convenience, this subterranean drinking den is a down-at-heel sort of place, with the owners managing to cram in leather seats, a jukebox, bar and even a stage where they host regular acts from the Manchester music scene. And of course, the toilets are suitably shabby with scribblings all over the wall to ruminate on while you relieve yourself.

Nakanoshima Hotel (Osaka, Japan)


Nakanoshima-Park-Hotel-Osaka-2 (Images: Google Street View; Fukuhen)

A public toilet in a Japanese park was temporarily turned into a hotel as part of an art project. Tatsu Nishino, who is renowned for creating domestic space installations, turned one half of a toilet block in Nakanoshima park in Osaka into a hotel room as part of a local arts event. The room included a shower and a double bed and for 10,000 yen (US $130) per night, guests had the privilege of being able to listen to the bodily sounds of the public using the remaining facilities on the other side of the wall.

Leak (Bath, UK)


leak-gift-shop-bath-england-2 (Images: Google Street View)

A pair of local entrepreneurs turned an abandoned toilet in Bath into a gift shop after the local council asked the local community what could be done with the building. The toilet had been in use up until 2014 when the council decided to close it and after approaching them with their plans, the pair were able to set about transforming facility.

The shop, entitled Leak, was given a modern fit and now sells wares such as children’s toys, greeting cards and jewellery. And not forgetting about the buildings former use, the shop includes a free unisex toilet for use of the public.

The Theatre of Small Convenience (Malvern, UK)


theatre-of-small-convenience-malvern-england-2 (Images: Google Street View)

Another Victorian convenience that had been left for dead was imaginatively converted into the world’s smallest theatre. The Theatre of Small Convenience in Malvern was opened in 1999 and can sit up to 12 people making it the smallest in the world according to the 2002 Guiness Book of World Records..

A local puppeteer spent two years turning the building into a theatre. He now runs it as a not-for-profit enterprise and the venue features puppet shows, plays, poetry tellings and even opera.

The Gardener’s Lodge (Sydney, Australia)

gardener's-lodge-sydney-australia (Image: Google Street View)

A former toilet in Sydney, Australia became a cafe following a A$1.2 million makeover. The Gardener’s Lodge Cafe, which was originally built by the University of Sydney as a dwelling for it’s groundsman, became a public toilet in 1911. It then closed in the 1980’s, but following the launch of a Public Toilet Strategy by the city of Sydney, the building was targeted for restoration.

In late 2012, two women, one of them an Aborignal elder from the Gamillaroi people of New South Wales, opened the new cafe, which is near an historic Aboriginal meeting place. Part of the idea behind the cafe is to provide Aboriginal people with training and employment opportunites. The menu also features bush food dishes and Aboriginal art is displayed on the walls.

The Wee Retreat (Sheringham, UK)

wee-retreat-converted-toilet-sheringham (Image: Evelyn Simak)

A builder and his wife turned a Victorian toilet on the seafront of Sheringham into a holiday home.

After the property went to auction, Nick Willan, owner of a building contractors, went up against ten other bidders to secure the property, eventually winning it at a price of £104,000, over twice the starting price.

He bought the toilet as an anniversary present to his wife after first spotting it while on holiday in the area.  He then set about getting the boys in and turning it into a liveable space, which involved adding an extra metre to the roof height for a bedroom and turing the ladies’ toilets into a kitchen.

The toilet block was over 100 years old and had fallen into disrepair after it was deemed no longer fit for purpose. But with such a high price paid for the building, the Council said they could easily afford to pay for the construction of a new public toilet to replace it.

Museum Faggiano (Lecce, Italy)



Museum-Faggiano-Lecce-Italy-4 (Images: Google Street View)

Forget bars and cafes, this toilet underwent a rather more distinguished transformation after being turned into a museum. Okay, that’s not quite true. But it was a toilet that certainly paved the way for one.

Lucian Faggiano, a local entrepreneur in Lecce, Italy, had bought a property with a view to turning it into a restaurant. He soon encountered a problem, however, in the form of a blocked toilet. So he started doing a little digging to see if he could get to the source of the problem and was surprised to discover a series of underground corridors. Enlisting the help of his sons, they continued to dig and gradually unearthed over 2000 years worth of history.

Over a seven year period, remains were discovered of a Templar home, a nunnery, Roman Granary, frescoes and thousands of individual objects. Meanwhile, Mr Faggiano continued to look for the route of the pipe, intent on opening his restaurant. However, he soon relinquished the idea after finding that the pipe was indeed broken and the building was subsequently turned into the Faggiano Museum where visitors can now descend spiral staircases to view artefacts and observe architectural remains through glass flooring.

Related – 10 Inspiring Examples of Adaptive Reuse



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