Dotted around Dublin there are dozens of former “public conveniences” or public toilets now unused, boarded and chained shut. These small, single story Victorian and Edwardian units were once an essential part of everyday life for many Dubliners.

Ternure public toilet in Dublin, Ireland

During the last century, a number of public toilet units were constructed around the Dublin City area to provide much needed services to the public. At the time of construction these units were absolutely essential considering there were many households without indoor toilets of their own. Those living in these houses were entirely dependent on the public toilet service provided by local authorities.

At their busiest, approximately 400 people were employed by Dublin City Council to run these units however, by the mid twentieth century, the toilets had become increasingly expensive to run and began to attract anti-social behavior. Homes and businesses around the city were now being built with their own indoor toilets meaning the public units were becoming increasingly redundant.

In the 1970s the council began to board up and lock the public toilets and in the early 1990s the last few remaining units, kept open to service busy city center locations, were shut. The last remaining units had become notorious for drug use in the city and unfortunately left an unsavory reputation for the public conveniences that were once such an indispensable part of life for many Dubliners.

In 2012, UK architect Laura Clark gained attention from the media when she transformed a derelict underground former public toilet in southeast London into a stunning one bedroom apartment.

Clark has no doubt provided inspiration to Dublin City Council, who have in recent years begun to examine the potential uses of Dublin’s unused public toilets. In the past two years a two former public toilet units have come on the market.

In 2013, a former public toilet in Dublin’s Ballsbridge, home to the country’s most expensive real estate, went up for auction and in early 2014 Dublin City Council sought proposals from parties interested in renting a former public toilet in Harold’s Cross Park (pictured below) and running it as a coffee shop.

Harolds Cross Public toilet in Dublin, Ireland

Although the units in Dublin are still derelict or unused, there has been a realization that the former public toilets could be used for any number of different purposes. Many of the units are located in prime real estate locations and with full renovation, could be used to house a number of different types of unique businesses.

What other uses could potentially ensure the preservation and renovation of these units? Are there any other cities that have found new uses for small, redundant units like the public toilets in Dublin?

Credits: Images by Rebecca Mullen. Data linked to sources.