Tuesday, October 18, 2005


As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.

Elliot C.-D., Technics and architecture. The Development of materials systems for buildings, Cambridge Massachusetts, Londres, The M.I.T. Press, 1992, Chapter 9, "Sanitation," pp. 215-230.


Context of this chapter The most fundamental evolution since the 18th century is building technologies. Architecture not only builds shapes and forms but also provides services, this is the passage from the object to the service. Gradually emerged an architecture full of pipes and the plumbing. The bathroom has been for a long time the High Tech Room and also the place where the person is the most vulnerable. There is a relationship between technology, vulnerability and intimacy. The bathroom is supposed to protect the person, e.g. from diseases, but this is at the same time when the person is the most vulnerable. The idea of the modern cyborg is the one who is clean thanks to these invisible networks... The bathroom is a fundamental moment. At that time putting a bathroom into a room was a revolutionized idea...

Summary As late as the middle of the 17th century even the nobility of England were little concerned with sanitation, and people would use the streets, etc... Chamber pots existed in the houses of prosperous, but in 1837 there was still not a single bathroom in Buckingham Palace. In 1596 Harington describes a water closet and a valve water closet was created by Cumming in 1775. Then in 1778, Bramah inproved it with the S-shaped bend in the waste pipe that retained sufficient water to seal the pipe and prevent odors entering the toilet room. It was operated my pulling a handle that opened a valve at the bottom of the water tank. Then appeared the pan water closet, the the hopper closet very low price (but ineffective trickle of water). Then appears the plunger water closet, the washout water closet, the washdown water closet (S trap at a level so high that the water in it filled much of the water-closet's bowl). After cholera in England in 1831 a physician showed the link between epidemic disease and working class areas of the city. A series of disease among the royal family made it more 'clear' the necessary improvement of the sanitary situation, but progress was slow. The first legislation of sanitation enacted in 1848, followed by the health law in New York in 1866.

Important dates
1596: Harington describes the water closet in Metamorphosis of Ajax
1775: Valve water closet patented (Britain) by Cumming
1778: Bramah patents (Britain) his improvement on the valve water closet
1860: the earth closet introduced by Moule (English)
1866: Health law in New York

In Architecture

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