Occupied! Would you live in an old public toilet?
There are very few young women who would get excited about a line of art deco urinals, but when architect Laura Jane Clark
first saw the antique porcelain in a block of Gents toilets in south-east London,
she had a light bulb moment. She thought they were totally wonderful.
When she finally got the keys, her descent below ground revealed a Ladies and Gents placed end-to-end to form a long thin space
furnished with rubble, rusty plumbing and unsavoury toilet cubicles
complete with cisterns.
With her architect's eye, Clark saw the height, the glass-brick ceiling lights set into the pavement above and space for an indoor-outdoor courtyard. But it would be almost seven years before she got the go ahead to turn it into a home. Some might celebrate a new home by
popping the bubbly and having a house-warming get-together.
Known to friends as Laura Loos,
Clark's Lamp Architects practice has since been called upon by buyers to advise on other lavatory conversions.
She is helping with a planning application for one in north London and
is about to work on designs for a converted toilet in central Cambridge.
Austerity-pressed councils, looking for ways to cash in on assets, have recognised the potential for flogging their under-used conveniences.
But don't get too excited. While Clark and Ranger found buildings with history, features and desirable locations,
these buildings tend to be dull, utilitarian post-war buildings with nothing to boast of but pebble-dash and plumbing.
The only one of the five to offer a faint hope of residential use
is a flat-roofed, post-war toilet on Canaan Lane in Morningside. No guide prices were given, but a week after the closing date in August,
the council said there was a good level of interest.
an ornate period lavatory is leased by the council as a gallery space called the Edwardian Cloakroom.
A former Victorian public convenience in Kentish Town, north London, was reopened last year as a cocktail bar, aptly named Ladies and Gentlemen.