Public Restrooms for Kochi
Kochi, Ernakulam district, Kerala, 682005, India
Developing a city-wide sanitation network for future liveability of Kochi with a particular emphasis on the urban poor and women.
The thesis mainly addresses the issue of poverty and sanitation. Statistically, 30% of Kochi residents live below poverty line and there are approximately 786 houses without toilet facilities.
I am looking at this theme to find solutions to how to build a more liveable city for the urban poor. Marginalised communities such as the urban poor are often excluded from exercising their rights to the city and appropriating the city's resources. This makes it difficult for them to break the cycle of poverty. The involvement of the urban poor in informal economic activities shows that they are independent to improve their livelihoods, thus, as architects and planners how do we help these communities without stripping their sense of independence?
In my thesis, I propose to rethink public toilets beyond their purpose of providing access to sanitation. How can we use public toilets as a tool to improve livelihoods, break social boundaries, and re-establish the relationship with water? I have achieved this by developing a city-wide sanitation network as an urban strategy with a particular emphasis on the urban poor and women. Two types of toilets are proposed: community toilets as a social hub for the urban poor, and general access toilets across the city. All toilets must be female-friendly to promote social inclusivity, especially in public realms. A modular approach is used to allow the toilets to be replicated across the city and fit in tight and larger spaces and reduces construction time. The modular units can be configured to fit social spaces in between. As water crisis is prevalent in Kochi, these toilets are equipped with their own on-site wastewater treatment facility and incorporated rainwater harvesting to ensure a consistent supply of water. The community toilets are cross programmed with other facilities that are helpful for the poor that can be both social and productive spaces - the catalyst project illustrates this idea.
Kochi should invest in better public toilets. When land is scarce, and the demand for toilets is increasing, it is best to utilise the available land with good public toilets that function as social spaces for the benefit of its residents. Having access to public toilets is empowering, people can be more mobile across the city, spend more time outdoors and participate in various activities in the society. By developing community toilets as social hubs in deprived neighbourhoods - the urban poor are also able to access welcoming and inviting public spaces within their reach and have their needs addressed.