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November 11, 2007

Stowing thrones

"People who live in ass houses shouldn't stow thrones." OK, I'm glad I got that one out of my system.

Perhaps if Sim Jae-duck were a Brit instead of Korean, he would have demanded the address "No. 2 Downing Street" for his new toilet-shaped house.

"Hmmm," you're thinking. "My toilet doesn't have a windowed bowl." Ha! You are so not thinking outside the box.

This project is the brainchild, if you want to call it that, of Mr. Sim, a Korean known to all -- to all, that is, who are in the know -- as "Mr. Toilet." Now there's a name I wish I had chosen!

Sim is building the two-story house set to be finished Sunday to commemorate the inaugural meeting later this month of the World Toilet Association.
In case you think this is some weird Korean humor that you just don't understand, let me set you straight. The World Toilet Association is a real group. It even has a real website. Well, it has a website. Whether it's real or not I'll leave for you to ponder.

By the way, the WTA has some goals you ought to know about:
The World Toilet Association, supported by the South Korean government, says that it aims to launch a "toilet revolution", getting people to open up about what goes on in the privacy of their bathrooms for the sake of improving worldwide hygiene.
I'm not sure I personally want to open up about what's going on in there, and I certainly don't want to tell it to some government-funded group.

Now, I hope you get an idea from the photo above how huge this house is.
Billed as the world's only toilet house, the 419-square-metre (4,508-sq-foot) concrete and glass structure rose on the site of Sim's former home in Suweon, 40 kilometres (24 miles) south of Seoul.
Naturally, a house that large could be rented out for parties and whatever for a large amount of money. (Think luxury boxes at the Washington Nationals' new stadium.) Sim says that before his family moves in -- I don't think "moves" is meant as a joke -- he'll rent out the toilet house for $50,000 a day, "with proceeds going towards providing poor countries with proper sanitary facilities."

If $50K a day seems a bit expensive for that party you were thinking of throwing, you should consider what you'll get for your money:
In the centre of the house is a glass-walled bathroom which features a device producing mist to make sure users do not feel too exposed. The loo's lid is raised automatically and music is also turned on when people enter.

The house, which has a stream and small garden in front, is nicknamed in Korean "Haewoojae," meaning "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries."
But wait! There's more!
A showpiece bathroom at the centre of the 4,520-square-foot house is on display through a floor-to-ceiling window made of glass that can be turned opaque at the touch of a button.

When guests enter to do their business, a motion sensor activates classical music.

The home has a total four bathrooms, others which offer amenities such as a whirlpool bathtub, urinals and large glass showers.
If this description doesn't, er, bowl you over, you can read more details about the house and see more photos here. (I note that one commenter thinks this is miserable feng shui. About 15 years ago, there was an article in the Rockville Gazette about feng shui, and the subject advised not to locate your bathroom near the front door. He said he once had an apartment with a bathroom there, and every time he put his key in the front door, he felt he needed to use the bathroom. I remember the article, because I sent it to Dave Barry and got a real note back from him. Those were the days . . . .)

Finally, I wouldn't want to eliminate from my account of this architectural marvel the quotation of the day.
"The toilet is not merely a place for excretion — it can save humankind from diseases," [Sim] continued. "A place of relaxation and purging, the toilet is a place for introspection. The toilet is also a central living place that possesses culture."
And even better is Mr. Sim's essential philosophy:
"Toilets stand central to people's lives."
I would say this definitely ranks up there with Kant's views: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law." In other words, build a toilet house only if you think everyone should live in one.

Next up: Hillary's universal toilet insurance.