Soho Green - Art Loo
- Original design
- Steven Johnson, 2007
The Art Loo is possibly London’s smallest and most unusual museum and doubles as a community toilet.
That’s a bit odd! How did it come about?
Soho Green’s success in working with Westminster City Council to enhance the space resulted in increased use. It became clear that a public WC was needed. But there were no funds for this and anxieties about anti-social and inappropriate use of any public facility.
A more innovative approach was required. Soho Green, Westminster City Council, Architect Steve Johnson and artist Elaine Duigenan collaborated to arrive at the Art Loo idea. The beauty of the idea was that it provided a well-designed building that enhanced the space, a community toilet (local groups and the gardener hold a key) and a museum reflecting Soho’s history all in one.
The innovativeness of the idea helped gain finding thorough Awards for All and a celebrity auction.
The Art Loo is in the corner of St Anne’s Churchyard on Wardour Street. It was once a burial ground but became a public open space in late Victorian times. In the 1990s it was derelict no-go area until local charity, Soho Green worked with Westminster City Council to transform it into a well-used space.
Steve Johnson, www.thearchitectureensemble.com
Steve designed the Wall of Light, the fence that creatively secured the space so he was the natural choice for the Art Loo. He describes his concept: ‘It emerges as a series of layers and cavities from the exterior and through to the interior. The fabric is light timber. The interior has a polycarbonate ‘skin’ and wall cavities provide repositories for made and collected artefacts. Ultimately it is intended to be a place, which tantalises the senses and provokes memory’.
Elaine Duigenan www.elaineduigenan.com
Her work for the Art Loo provides a unique reliquary, a time capsule of Soho. The display makes reference to the site, a former burial ground and to the variety and history of Soho.
Left of facing door
Photos contributed by local people, the lantern houses an image of a Soho lamplighter, the tin shows the staff of a very large Italian restaurant.
Right facing door
Relates to the richness of medical history in the area, notably John Snow and the Hunter brothers who at one time had an anatomy school in Great Windmill St. Also contains a memento mori (mannequin hung with photo pendants) and a book by William Hazlitt who is buried nearby.
Photographic piece based on an early anatomical model giving reference to the 60,000 bodies buried in the sit
The semicircular panel
Relates to the story of John Snow and the discovery of cholera being a water borne disease. He made deductions based on mapping the correlation of numbers of deaths corresponding to usage at local water pumps.
Bay 1: memorabilia relating to theatre, jazz, entertainment
Bay 2: businesses in Soho, Soho men, Chinese community
Bay 3: Soho women, glamour, fashion
Bay 4: the ‘rag trade’, design and trendsetting
Memento jewellery made by children from Soho Parish School
Bay 1: Soho Parish School and church
Bays 2 and 3: Old and new photographs of the same location to reveal change over the years, maps, postcards, miscellaneous
Bay 4: ‘sun photos’ of objects made by Soho Parish School