A pissoir or vespasienne is a structure that provides support and screening of urinals in public space. It is a French invention common in Europe that allows for urination in public without the need for a toilet building. Availability of a pissoir reduces the likelihood of urination onto buildings, sidewalks, or streets.
In the spring of 1830 the city government of Paris decided to install the first public urinals on the major boulevards. These structures served both as urinals and supports for posters and advertising. They were put in place by the summer, but in July they were put to a completely different purpose; providing materials for street barricades during the French Revolution of 1830.
They were re-introduced in different form in Paris in 1841 by Claude-Philibert Barthelot, comte de Rambuteau, the Préfet of the former Départment of the Seine. Initially having a simple cylindrical shape, they were also called colonnes Rambuteau. In 1877 they were replaced by multi-compartmented structures called vespasiennes, in reference to the 1st-century Roman emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who placed a tax on urine collected from public toilets for use in tanning. At the peak of their spread in the 1930s there were 1,230 pissoirs in Paris, but by 1966 their number had decreased to 329. By 2006 only one remained, on Boulevard Arago. (From 1981 they had been replaced systematically with new technology, the Sanisette.)
In Berlin the first pissoirs were erected in 1863. In order to distinguish them from those of other cities, several architectural design competitions were organised in 1847, 1865 and 1877. One of the most successful types was an octagonal structure with seven stalls, first built in 1879. Their number increased to 142 by 1920.
A pissoir close to the royal castle in Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden, 2014
- Fierro 1996, p. 1177.
- Pike, David L. (2005): Subterranean Cities: The World Beneath Paris and London, 1800-1945, Cornell University Press
- Ress, Paul (2006): Shaggy Dog Tales: 58 1/2 Years of Reportage, Xlibris
- Bärthel, Hilmar (2000): "Tempel aus Gusseisen: Urinale, Café Achteck und Vollanstalten", Berlinische Monatsschrift Heft 11
- "The Pee Pod - the place to pee in Milton Keynes!". BBC news, 15 June 2010.
- "Edinburgh to trial 'pee pod' street urinals". BBC news, 24 November 2010.
- Salzmann, Claudia. "Frauen-Pissoir: Kein leichtes Unterfangen". Berner Zeitung, 18 July 2011 (German).
- Media related to Pissoirs at Wikimedia Commons