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The Past Facts of the Toilet


This article defines toilet from an architectural viewpoint, explores its beginnings, and shows how it has evolved over the years from an extremely simple space to a modern toilet we use everyday.

The catalog from an architectural exhibition held in Italy in 2014 defines bathroom as “space in which bodies are.. inspected and cultivated… to develop and affirm identity.” While this definition does sound unnaturally lofty, it does highlight the importance of bathroom in our lives.

The Toilet

This catalog defines toilet in a similarly lofty fashion, calling it “the fundamental zone of interaction… between humans and architecture.” Humor aside, the development of toilet technologies did have a significant impact on how buildings were built.

In 1596, the first flush toilet was created. However, it has not become widespread for more than a century. Only in 1851, significant number of people started using the flush toilet. Before 1851, people used holes in the ground and chamber pots, not to mention communal outhouses.

The 11th Century Toilets

The 11th century saw an evolution of the term “toilet”. During this time, there was a castle-building boom during which something significant occurred. For the first time ever, toilets became an integrated part of architecture, as they were no longer chamber pots that could be placed in any room. This integrated toilet became called “garderobe”. This word is interpreted by scholars to mean “closet”.

Medieval Times

These medieval bathrooms – some of the first bathrooms of human civilization – were simple, continuous recesses which ran vertically down to the ground. In less than a century, however, they have turned into small rooms that extended beyond castle walls as separate bottomless bays.

These early bathrooms called “garderobes” resembled a part of castle’s defenses. They also worked in a similar fashion through gravity. Though they were a weak part of defenses, the invading army would not be too pleased to attack a wall beneath a garderobe. Discovering the contents of garderobe would not be a pleasant surprise.


Vertical Design

The vertical design inherent in first garderobes has soon evolved. It was replaced by spiral up towers, entire towers dedicated to waste disposal, moats where waste was dropped, and simple cesspools. Not all buildings used these primitive technologies, however.

Some simply dropped it on the ground. But other buildings used far more advanced waste disposal methods. Some – like the Christchurch monastery built in 1167 – had sophisticated waste disposal systems that separated the types of waste.

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If you live in the Tucson area, and are having toilet troubles, get in touch with Spartan Plumbing at 520-617-1000 and find out how you can get your toilet back!