Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So what do we do with the broken toilet building? PART I: RESEARCHING

This is the question that the restoration team at LMLM has been debating over the last weeks. Following the clearing out of the old bucket system area at Hostel 33, the Museum team has been documenting and researching the space. The bucket system area is the only remaining structure of its type following the Hostels-to Homes housing project of the 1990s. Once this was completed, residents of Lwandle’s converted hostels received waterborne sewerage which effectively eradicated the bucket system from the old hostels. (For more on the Hostels-to Homes project visit the Museum’s permanent exhibition). The small lean-to structures that can be seen at the ends of alternate buildings in the 1987 photograph by Andrew Bermann were removed (Image 1). ‘Every alternate hostel has an addition containing a row of bucket toilets’. (Source: Urban Design Services [Bermann and Penz], 1987, Lwandle Investigation into the potential for Black Housing, Draft report for the Urban Foundation, February 1987, p.19) In their place, new units were added to the ends of each hostel building using larger concrete block construction.

In the light of this Hostel 33’s bucket system area, is hugely significant in telling the stories of living conditions prior to the housing project. Image 2 shows the state of the structure prior to cleaning out, more than ten years since it was last used.

Image 1: Lwandle aerial. Photograph: Andrew Bermann 1987

Image 2a: The derelict state of the bucket system before clearing. Photograph: Alan Middleton (Jakupa Architects), 2010, Draft Condition Report, photograph taken December 2009

Image 2b showing where new untits were added onto the ends of hostel bocks to increase the number of units and how the bucket system areas were removed from the ends of buildings, leaving the structure at Hostel 33 as the only remianing structure. Photograph: Noeleen Murray 22 April 2010.

Section 2.24 of the 1987 Report entitled ‘Exiting Conditions and Residents Problems’ cites a meeting with the Hostel and Women’s Committees in which a range of problems were communicated to the group which attended the meeting. (See Image 3 and 'Lwandle in the 1980s' on this blog). First among these was point a:

‘a) dissatisfaction with the bucket toilet system: Night soil is removed only 3 times a week. However the day after removal the buckets are already full of excrement, remaining there till the next day and in the case of weekends, for 2 days. The outside toilets are also far from the hostel rooms.’

Image 3 from the Report shows what a typical cubicle looked like, and Image 4, shows cubicle #5 at Hostel 33 which is the only cubicle containing a remnant of a timber toilet seats. From this evidence, cross checked with and careful measurements on site, Renchius prepared drawings of the seats – See Images 5 and 6. Samples of the timber remnant were carefully removed from the underside of the old seat and this revealed a fine grained hardwood, probably Clear Oregon Pine or Baltic Deal (views from William Martinson and Renchius van der Merwe). It was suggested that the samples be sent for testing.

Image 3: Photograph 5. Caption: ‘A bucket toilet cubicle. The floor is flooded with excrement making use of the system very difficult.’ Source: Urban Design Services (Bermann and Penz), 1987, Lwandle Investigation into the potential for Black Housing, Draft report for the Urban Foundation, February 1987, p.28

Image 4: Toilet cubicle #5 showing remnant of toilet seat. Photograph: Laura Davies March 2010

Image 5: Architectural detail drawings prepared by Renchius van der Merwe and sent for comment.

Image 6: William Martinson’s comments were ‘the drawing looks good’ with a few notes.


  1. Note new image added to this post, showing the blockwork additions to hostels after the Hostels-to-Homes Project, after which Hostel33's bucket system structre was the only one of its type left in Lwandle.

  2. Hostels are full of young and young-at-heart backpackers and a few budget businessmen.

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