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====== WcCafe ======


Toilets have been a source of taboo, embarrassment and humour in many cultures. This project explores the subject of toilets and defecation and aims to bring it out in the open. The intent is to create a cafe which makes toilet discussion a table discussion, thereby giving it legitimacy. ‘WcCafe’ would serve coffee and snacks in an environment which is beautiful, refreshing and purposeful.

It has three main purposes:

First is public awareness and education. The focus is to break the taboo associated with toilets and make it a mainstream discussion.

Second is to create a long term revenue stream for the people/organisations involved in realising the concept: namely, WTO (World Toilet Organisation), FoAM (interdisciplinary design research firm in Brussels) and VWO (voluntary welfare organisations).

Third is to act like a catalyst and trigger a sustainable sanitation movement for the 2.6 billion people globally who do not have access to proper sanitation. It would also act like an informal backdrop to lobby for a pro-sanitation movement through its franchise outlets globally.

brief summary of the cultural, scientific and social context within which the research took place

The research started in New Delhi, India and proceeded through follow up exchanges between the design consultant, Sanjeev Shankar; the producer, FoAM, represented by Maja Kuzmanovic and the client, World Toilet Organisation, represented by Jack Sim. Thereafter, the research base shifted to Singapore where we had site-visits and discussions with the client and the target groups. The project has also been benefited by two meetings between the client and the producer in Paris and Dalian, China. Geographic location

Singapore is a successful model of rapid growth and transformation in Asia. A dynamic and vibrant city, it is also the home of the World Toilet Organisation (WTO) and the World Toilet College (WTC). WTO is a non-profit organization, established in Singapore in 2001. It communicates the need for better toilet standards in both the developed and developing economies of the world and provides a service platform for all toilet associations, related organizations and committed individuals to facilitate an exchange of ideas relating to health and cultural issues. WTC which was started by WTO in 2005 is a dedicated institution that offers training programs such as Restroom Design Course, Restroom Specialist Training Course and Ecological Sanitation Course. It strives to “change the reality of low image, low morale and low pay toilet cleaners, and train them to become all round managers.”

With its strong economic position, Singapore has often been an attractive place for testing ideas in Asia. Demographically, it is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation with Chinese, Indians and Malays forming the core of the population. These are mostly descendants of immigrants who came to Singapore to take advantage of the economic opportunities made available by the founding of modern Singapore by Raffles in 1819.

Socio Cultural Context

The research has had a global vision. It looks at the taboo associated with sanitation at two levels. First and more importantly, it is applicable to all the regions in the world which need improvement in their basic sanitation standards. These places located mostly in third world countries in Asia and Africa have, abysmally poor sanitation standards and there has been very little effort from the government or private bodies to change the status. People in these parts are constantly exposed to grave risks and often succumb to poor hygienic conditions arising out of this situation. Government apathy, public ignorance and hesitation to confront the topic have often been the main reasons for this situation. Further, lack of basic resources essentially water has also added to the burden. There is a deep link between the prevalent water crisis and the sanitation crises. There is a possibility here for leapfrogging by introducing toilets which use little or no water.

On the other hand the research also explores ways and means to make the sanitation system in the developed world more efficient and sustainable. This has become a growing concern globally with depletion of water resources which is a top priority for most governments.

Though, there have been efforts to address the issue of sanitation, a lot of these are plagued by the nature of this topic and the hesitation to discuss it in the open. This has been observed and discussed with the director of WTO who has witnessed this attitude in varying degrees across different sections of societies in different cultures. The thrust of this research and thereby this project is to use a different approach: an informal, unusual method to raise awareness about sanitation in a well planned, refreshing and strategic manner and thereby direct the benefits arising out of this to improve the situation globally.

description of how the work relates to other works in the field of inquiry

This work explores issues of sanitation, food and hygiene, sustainability and social enterprise. In addition to exploring informal ways in which this subject has been tackled in the past, the work also explores innovative methods of funding and hopes to improvise by creating a business model based on bringing people and companies with common interests together. It further holds great potential to create a precedent for businesses globally to become more ecologically sustainable, socially responsible and monetarily profitable all at the same time. There is further scope for exploring new approaches to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), possibly on the lines of ‘creative commons’. However, this needs to be clarified further in discussion with the producer and the client.

Some of the projects which have dealt with similar fields of inquiry are discussed below:

(1)Sulabh Toilet MuseumItalic Text in New Delhi envisioned by Dr. Brihadeshwara Pathak the founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a pioneering non-profit voluntary organisation in the field of Sanitation in India. The museum is dedicated entirely to the history of toilets and displays their evolution. It also now has a laboratory and carries out research to develop sustainable sanitation solutions for Indian conditions.

It has been established with the following objectives:- (a)To provide information to researchers about the design, materials, and technologies adopted in the past and those in use in the contemporary world; (b)To educate students about the historical trends in the development of toilets; ©To help policy makers to understand the efforts made by predecessors in this field throughout the world; (d)To help the manufacturers of toilet equipment and accessories in improving their products by functioning as a technology storehouse; and (e)To help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.

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  • Last modified: 2008-02-12 11:57
  • by sanjeev