In Praise of the Parisian Pissoir

When I first saw it, I thought that it was a modern drinking fountain.  Thank God I was quickly amended of that idea!

In fact, the unedifying object is a portable four-way male urinal station.  Portable that is if you consider 85kgs portable, not to mention the additional weight of 450 litres of urine, when the thing is full to capacity.

400 paris pissoir

The portable four-way male urinal station (PFWMUS) is the latest in a long line of ways that Paris has attempted to solve the problem of outdoor weeing.

Following on from my earlier investigation of wildplassen, I was intrigued.

The long history of Paris’s battle against public urination can be seen in her street furniture.  There are the empêche-pipi, located in suitably inauspicious street corners; there are the green cast-iron pissoirs or vespasiennes––sadly, now an almost extinct species––there are the ubiquitous sanisettes, and now there is the PFWMUS.

Assessed purely as an aesthetic object, the PFWMUS has little to commend it; certainly, when measured against the sometimes beautiful and intricate architecture of the vespasienne it is something of an ugly duckling––although, having said that, the last surviving example of a urinoir on Boulevard Arago is no Helen of Troy.

400 blvd arago pissoir

A final indictment of the PFWMUS is that it lays itself wide open to acts of graffiti.

400 trump pissoir 2

© E. C. Glendenny


E. C. Glendenny, author of Easy Come, Easy Go, does the ‘caught short’ quick-step.

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