Designing Ethos

Political Lessons from our Toilette Bowls and Doors.

Toilets in modern water closets rise up from the floor like water lilies. The architect does all he can to make the body forget how paltry it is, and to make man ignore what happens to his intestinal wastes after the water from the tank flushes them down the drain. Even though the sewer pipelines reach far into our houses with their tentacles, they are carefully hidden from view, and we are happily ignorant of the invisible Venice of shit underlying our bathrooms, bedrooms, dance halls, and parliaments.

Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

A cursory look at our surroundings should suffice to show that our lives are carried out in the depth of a designed environment. So prevalent is the presence of design in our experience that the fact that our environment is designed has become transparent and in this transparency, invisible. Sheltered in the inconspicuousness and normalcy of daily use, the normative might of the rules that issue from the objects of our use determining our customary doings becomes lost from view. Virtually all our doings—both voluntary and, more remarkably, involuntary actions—are framed, determined, oriented and guided by our interactions with objects of human invention and manufacture. Nature, our own and around us, has been counterfeited. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing.