Posts Tagged ‘Wall AG’

City Pissoir – Urinary Discrimination?

Monday, January 11th, 2016

When I focused my camera on the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtnis Kirche (Emperor Wilhelm Memorial Church) in Berlin’s city center, a shiny, ultramodern structure obstructed my view. The inscription above the frosted front door read, “City Pissoir.” A caricature on the door instantly reminded me of Manneken Pis, Brussels’ famous 1700s sculpture, and left no doubt that this contemporary edifice provided a terminus for urgent calls.

City Pissoir at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

City Pissoir at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany
Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2015

What is a pissoir?

The term comes from the Middle French pisser, to urinate. And indeed, a pissoir is a French invention dating back to the mid-1800s. It is a structure that provides support and screening for public urinals without incurring the expense of constructing an enclosed building. Pissoirs were created to reduce the likelihood of urination onto sidewalks and buildings.

History of the Pissoir

In the 1700s, Paris was one of the dirtiest cities in Europe. People openly urinated in the street until the city’s major placed “barrels of easement” on all street corners. These barrels were meant to clean up the streets by clustering the problem in specific locations. Then in 1841, different fixtures took their place in Paris: Crude metal structures that sheltered public urinals. They were called pissoirs or pissotières. In 1850, Napoleon III commissioned Baron Georges-Eugene Haussman to install them throughout the city. By the 1930s, Paris counted about 1,200 of these structures.

Soon, other cities followed the example. In Berlin, the first pissoirs were erected in 1863. By the 1960s pissoirs started to fall out of fashion again, and in the 1980s the present-day Sanisette toilets were introduced in Paris. David Jaggard writes,” Sanisette toilets were developed by the same company that runs the Vélib bike rental system, JCDecaux (corporate motto: ‘From piddles to pedals’.” http://www.paris-update.com/fr/hot-topics/cest-ironique/21580-the-flow-of-history-the-mercifully-dwindling-presence-of-the-parisian-pissoir

Berlin’s City Pissoir

Berlin’s City Pissoir at the Breitscheidplatz is provided by the Wall AG, an International street furniture supplier and outdoor advertiser. It was installed in 2003. Made from power-coated aluminum panels and frosted safety glass, it is definitely high-tech. Motion sensors activate the flushing mechanism and the interior lighting. Motion sensors also activate the basin faucet so that users can wash their hands without having to touch the faucets. But guess what? Berlin’s City Pissoir is for men only, just like in the 1800s! The interior of Berlin’s City Pissoir is divided into urinal and lavatory compartments. A small drain hole is installed in the floor of the urinal section. Definitely not appealing to women. Shall we call this “urinary discrimination?”

Why a pissoir at the Breitscheidplatz?

As it turns out, the Breitscheidplatz where the City Pissoir and the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtniskirche are located is not only popular with tourists. It also appeals to locals, particularly following a soccer game when the men have been drinking. According to Sylvia von Kekulè, pastor at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedaechtsniskirche, men have lined up regularly along the church walls to relieve themselves. After having received many complaints from the pastor and surrounding businesses, the city of Berlin hired the Wall AG to install this shiny and free City Pissoir. The only complaint is that it doesn’t take women’s needs into account. http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/archiv/auf-dem-breitscheidplatz-steht-jetzt-ein-kostenloses-klo-nur-fuer-maenner,10810590,10097922.html

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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Christmas Time in Berlin

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

If you want to catch some good old-fashioned holiday spirit, a visit to Berlin during Christmas time might just get the job done. As a result of the reunification in 1990, Berlin has ended up with a double complement of practically everything from theaters to museums, art galleries, opera houses, symphony orchestras, churches, zoos and, of course, Weihnachtsmaerkte – Christmas markets.

Christmas market – Weihnachtsmarkt in Berlin

At last count, approximately 80 Christmas markets in and around the city beckon visitors to experience Christmas time in Berlin. There are traditional and contemporary handcrafted toys to be admired, wood- and glass art, ceramics, baskets, candles and much more. Some of the markets even invite visitors to create their own Christmas tree ornament or advent wreath. For culinary enthusiasts, treats of all kinds are waiting to be sampled. Bratwurst (sausage), Lebkuchen (gingerbread), Pilzpfanne (fresh mushrooms fried with onions and bacon), hot chocolate and Gluehwein (mulled wine) are only a few of the holiday specialties offered. Sometimes, concerts, readings and special performances may be enjoyed along the way.

Christmas Lights in Berlin

Then after dark, many parts of the city are transformed into a sea of festive lights. The Charlottenburg castle is illuminated. The energy provider, Vattenfall, lights up the 220 linden trees on Unter den Linden, Berlin’s celebrated boulevard near the Brandenburger Tor. But my favorite is the Kurfuerstendamm. For the past 11 years, the Wall AG, an outdoor advertising firm that is part of the International JDDecaux Group, has dressed up the roughly 570 trees on both sidewalks and the median in their Christmas finery. Between 650 and 950 feet of lights are required to decorate each tree. That makes for roughly 145 miles of lights. Additional light sculptures, representing a nutcracker, reindeer, a train and Christmas trees, adorn the median.

Christmas lights in Berlin - 2014 - Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights in Berlin – 2014 – Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights on Berlin's Kurfuerstendamm - 2014 - Photo: Gundi Seifert

Christmas lights on Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm – 2014 – Photo: Gundi Seifert

If you want to get into the holiday spirit, experience Christmas time in Berlin. Now stay tuned for my favorite Gluehwein recipe. I will share it with you next week and bet that the Gluehwein will put some color into your cheeks and some goodwill into your heart.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

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