Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Study postgraduate law: the ANU Juris Doctor

Canberra’s greatest toilet

By Kim Huynh - 11 February 2017 18

t

RiotACT columnist Kim Huynh reflects upon the history and destiny of our bathrooms and civilisation.

Going to the bathroom at the Dickson Community Health Centre was a profound – almost Proustian – experience for me.

I was taking my son for a check-up and realised that the last time I was there my Mum was taking me for just such an appointment.

Back then the bathroom seemed new, sleek and wondrous.

Now I was struck by how little had changed. The wooden benchtops looked as shiny as the day the centre opened. The yellow-brown tiles were entirely intact. And the urinals had a curvaceous charm that’s hard to find in contemporary varieties.

There had been some modifications over the decades. A plastic paper towel dispenser replaced the hand towels that once hung from the railing. I suspect the handrails around the toilets and urinals had been added as our health and safety awareness increased. The taps were miss-matched, which gave the place hipster appeal. However, none of these changes detracted from the distinctive ambiance of the bathroom.

I wondered whether my boy would return to this place as a man and remember his first visit. How would he feel as he contemplated what remained and what had changed?

Upon booking our next appointment, the receptionist informed us that the centre was to be renovated. It was old and rundown. It needed overhauling or perhaps even a knock-down-rebuild. This was made all the more necessary after a driver accidently crashed into one of its walls last year.

Learning of the bathroom’s fate filled me with feelings of loss and nostalgia.

No doubt when my son goes to the new Dickson Community Health Centre he will be able to relieve and clean himself in a far more functional place. Almost every surface will be white, beige or grey and easy to clean. There’ll be little if any grout and a rapid eco hand drier on the wall.

It probably won’t last as long as the current bathroom, but will be replaced with one that’s pretty much identical in look and utility. In this way, I predict that my son will return to the same bathroom again and again, in Dickson and in many other places.

His experience of this bathroom will be a microcosm of his experience of Canberra’s architecture and, beyond that, Western civilisation. There’ll be little in his cultural life that’s distinctive or significant and thus nothing that’s worth remembering, preserving or updating. Just the same-old new stuff.

After the Cold War, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that the spread of liberal democracies marked the end of history; that is, the potential for politics to radically change or even evolve had all but ceased.

Fukuyama is sometimes criticised as a cheerleader for US power. However, he’s far less sanguine about Western culture, which he believes is destined to stagnate because of crass consumerism and democracy.

The result, he says in the End of History and the Last Man, is that we’ll see the demise of ‘beautiful but useless things’ like poems and Fabergé eggs and ‘vastly greater quantities of things that are useful but ugly: machine tools, freeways, Toyota Camrys, and prefabricated houses’.

The point being that we should protect, renovate and build our bathrooms, cities and societies with a view to giving our descendants something to treasure rather than flush away.

What’s your favourite Canberra bathroom and why? Do you think that there’s a lack of innovation and distinction when it comes to Canberra’s (and Western civilisation’s) architecture and design? If so, what should be done? If not, why not? Any thoughts Paul Costigan?

Kim Huynh is a RiotACT culture columnist, ANU international relations lecturer and presents every second Friday on ABC Canberra Radio’s Drive.

What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments
18 Responses to
Canberra’s greatest toilet
1
Ello Vera 5:56 pm
13 Feb 17
#

Is there any name for the “necessary place” that isn’t a euphemism? “Lavatory” is based on laving, as is “toilet”, “washroom”, “bathroom”, “loo” (spurious etymology aside).

We are renovating our bathroom and part of this is removing the bath, which we never use, and using the space to make a future-proof, big shower. We may have to re-name the room!

Report this comment

2
Kim Huynh 8:34 am
14 Feb 17
#

Ello Vera said :

Is there any name for the “necessary place” that isn’t a euphemism? “Lavatory” is based on laving, as is “toilet”, “washroom”, “bathroom”, “loo” (spurious etymology aside).

We are renovating our bathroom and part of this is removing the bath, which we never use, and using the space to make a future-proof, big shower. We may have to re-name the room!

Great question EV. I don’t have a great answer, but add the peculiar term ‘restroom’, which I think only applies to public places. Or do people go to the restroom in their homes? Not sure what the etymological history is there. What sort of resting goes on in these places? In Vietnam public toilets are often referred to as ‘nha ve sinh’ (hygienic place), which is sometimes more aspirational than descriptive. I hope the renovation of the restroom is not too stressful. K.

Report this comment

3
dungfungus 9:35 am
14 Feb 17
#

Kim Huynh said :

Ello Vera said :

Is there any name for the “necessary place” that isn’t a euphemism? “Lavatory” is based on laving, as is “toilet”, “washroom”, “bathroom”, “loo” (spurious etymology aside).

We are renovating our bathroom and part of this is removing the bath, which we never use, and using the space to make a future-proof, big shower. We may have to re-name the room!

Great question EV. I don’t have a great answer, but add the peculiar term ‘restroom’, which I think only applies to public places. Or do people go to the restroom in their homes? Not sure what the etymological history is there. What sort of resting goes on in these places? In Vietnam public toilets are often referred to as ‘nha ve sinh’ (hygienic place), which is sometimes more aspirational than descriptive. I hope the renovation of the restroom is not too stressful. K.

What’s wrong with “dunny”?

Report this comment

4
bronal 9:43 am
14 Feb 17
#

I must go down to the loo again
To the lonely loo and the flush
And all I need is a stout wooden seat
And no real need to rush

Can’t remember the rest – apologies to John Masefield.

The best conveniences in Canberra are on the ground floor of DJ’s in Woden. Nice and cavernous and filled with the music of cisterns filling.

Report this comment

5
John Moulis 12:50 pm
14 Feb 17
#

I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency by some in the media to use the American term “bathroom” when referring to toilets. It is very annoying because in Australia a bathroom is a room with a shower and bath whereas a toilet is a toilet.

Other Americanisms seem to be creeping in as well. I’ve noticed on radio the word “route” is almost always pronounced “rowt” nowadays. I’ve wondered why this is happening. Surely not because the pronunciation “root” refers to having sex in Australia?

Report this comment

6
dungfungus 3:44 pm
14 Feb 17
#

John Moulis said :

I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency by some in the media to use the American term “bathroom” when referring to toilets. It is very annoying because in Australia a bathroom is a room with a shower and bath whereas a toilet is a toilet.

Other Americanisms seem to be creeping in as well. I’ve noticed on radio the word “route” is almost always pronounced “rowt” nowadays. I’ve wondered why this is happening. Surely not because the pronunciation “root” refers to having sex in Australia?

There was a great headline on an ABC Radio Hobart article last week:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-16/tasmania-tree-change-for-uk-doctor-olive-grove/8184786

Report this comment

7
Chris Mordd Richards 6:43 pm
14 Feb 17
#

I feel this is relevant – now those are some spectacular toilets!

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/13/travel/lonely-planet-toilet-spotters-guide/

Report this comment

8
Maya123 8:32 pm
14 Feb 17
#

9
dungfungus 10:49 pm
14 Feb 17
#

This toilet is not in Canberra but it is in the ACT and Bec Cody MLA doesn’t like it:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-14/rsl-club-criticised-over-aboriginal-men-toilet-wall-tiles/8270296

Report this comment

10
Chris Mordd Richards 2:12 am
15 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

I feel this is relevant – now those are some spectacular toilets!

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/13/travel/lonely-planet-toilet-spotters-guide/

Try these: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=toilet+at+Kawakawa&biw=1687&bih=989&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjOpqjjo4_SAhXGJJQKHY5_Ad0QsAQIOg

Nah, I much prefer to more naturist style locations than fancy inside toilets, there’s just something about letting go among or neat nature that is so much more satisfying. Guess there’s still a bit of caveman / forest man in me lol.

Report this comment

11
Chris Mordd Richards 2:13 am
15 Feb 17
#

Spelling meh 🙁

Report this comment

12
Kim Huynh 6:59 am
15 Feb 17
#

Maya123 said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

I feel this is relevant – now those are some spectacular toilets!

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/13/travel/lonely-planet-toilet-spotters-guide/

Try these: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=toilet+at+Kawakawa&biw=1687&bih=989&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjOpqjjo4_SAhXGJJQKHY5_Ad0QsAQIOg

Thanks for the dunny diggin’ all. I must get to Japan which may be the only place in the world where there is still a strong drive to develop toilet technology. I assume this reflects their affection for cleanliness and technology more generally. K

Report this comment

13
Maya123 10:25 am
15 Feb 17
#

Chris Mordd Richards said :

Maya123 said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

I feel this is relevant – now those are some spectacular toilets!

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/13/travel/lonely-planet-toilet-spotters-guide/

Try these: https://www.google.com.au/search?q=toilet+at+Kawakawa&biw=1687&bih=989&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjOpqjjo4_SAhXGJJQKHY5_Ad0QsAQIOg

Nah, I much prefer to more naturist style locations than fancy inside toilets, there’s just something about letting go among or neat nature that is so much more satisfying. Guess there’s still a bit of caveman / forest man in me lol.

I hope you take a shovel 🙂

Report this comment

14
Maryann Mussared 12:16 pm
15 Feb 17
#

dungfungus said :

This toilet is not in Canberra but it is in the ACT and Bec Cody MLA doesn’t like it:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-14/rsl-club-criticised-over-aboriginal-men-toilet-wall-tiles/8270296

Sorry, Sussex Inlet is not in Jervis Bay Territory (JBT), the coastal part of the ACT. Next door, just like Queanbeyan is to Canberra. Bec Cody is completely out of order and should do something constructive in the ACT that serves the voters who invested faith in her yet to be proven political skills.

Report this comment

15
dungfungus 2:10 pm
15 Feb 17
#

Maryann Mussared said :

dungfungus said :

This toilet is not in Canberra but it is in the ACT and Bec Cody MLA doesn’t like it:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-14/rsl-club-criticised-over-aboriginal-men-toilet-wall-tiles/8270296

Sorry, Sussex Inlet is not in Jervis Bay Territory (JBT), the coastal part of the ACT. Next door, just like Queanbeyan is to Canberra. Bec Cody is completely out of order and should do something constructive in the ACT that serves the voters who invested faith in her yet to be proven political skills.

I knew that – it was meant to read ” but the issue is in the ACT”.

I had never even heard of Bec Cody – she must have won an allocated Labor seat at the last election and is announcing her presence to the ignorant antipodeans like me down in Tuggers.

I have seen tiles like that everywhere throughout Australia and no one has complained.

I would like to have a box of them under my house right now.

Report this comment

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Search across the site