Privy at Pleasant Hill
|Program:||Facilities for bathing and elimination.|
|Project Brief:||Design a privy on a west-facing hillside in the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.|
|Concept:||Connection by separation: the architectural concept of the "reveal" is utilized to make visible flows of water, waste, and weight, and to connect the building with its surroundings.|
An open-air privy becomes one with the landscape.
We flush the toilet and our waste disappears. We put our garbage out to the curb and it vanishes. We drive our cars and the vapors dissipate. Where do these things go? We don't know, really. We don't think about it. These things are de-linked from our lives — fatally so.
The idea that waste simply disappears does more than remove any incentive to waste less — it also removes us psychologically from the planetary life-support systems, from the biosphere to which we are fundamentally connected. We do not get to see the constant transformations that take place around us, and so we as a culture fail to understand our place within that system. We come to think of the world as static, as a machine with only a few moving parts. We come to think that waste is taken care of by humans and not by nature — when nothing could be further from the truth. There is no recycler save the natural world.
This privy utilizes the architectural concept of the "reveal" to call attention to those processes that are usually hidden. By peeling the skin away from the structure at critical points, this building allows us to understand its construction — the flow of weight from cantilevered mass into the ground. Similarly, lifting the entire privy off the ground reveals the flow of water and waste: used water cascades from the tub into a series of living purifiers on the hillside below, and waste from the toilet falls into a composting unit below and is ultimately applied as fertilizer to these gardens. The sculptural roof collects, stores, and heats rainwater. The form of the roof shades the long, flat water tank in the summer and captures sunlight in the winter.
The building is open; thermal comfort is achieved by conditioning the water. Raising the privy off the ground above eye level allows it to be open to the beautiful views of Kentucky's rolling hills. The user experiences and inhabits the landscape, rather than a closed building. To create the "reveal" between building and ground, the privy is conceptualized as a truss cantilevered over the hillside. This structure becomes an integral part of the building's aesthetic, just as the building becomes an integral part of the landscape.