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  • Writer's pictureNigel Wakeham

Brutalist Lavatories in Margate

Entrance elevation showing the entrances and the service duct between the men’s and women’s lavatories.

Brutalist Lavatories in Margate

I visited Margate last week and came across these lavatories on the sea front.They were built, I should think, in the 1970s, presumably by the local council.

In those days, local authorities had their own architects’ departments and one of Margate’s architects must have spent a long time designing and detailing this small, but fairly remarkable building.

At this point on the sea front, there is a change of level and the lavatories are built on two levels with the women’s lavatories on the lower level and the men’s lavatories on the upper level with a service duct running between them. The lavatories are constructed of fair-face blockwork (now painted white) and the whole building is designed around a blockwork module so that there are no cut blocks. There are however a lot of ‘special’ blocks, for instance at the corners of the slot windows and at roof level, and these must have been specially made for this building.

Slot window with special blocks at the corners.

The lavatories are lit by the slot windows, which have obscured glass, and roof-lights set in the flat roofs. The original ceiling lights have been replaced. Security is provided by sliding, diagonally boarded, timber doors which are locked when the lavatories are closed. The doors are now however in a very poor state.

Internally, the lavatories are equally well detailed. They have matching brown, rectangular quarry tiles on the floors and walls. As with most quarry tiles of the period, the tiles vary slightly in colour (I have discovered that quarry tiles are no longer made in UK but come from Spain and the quality is no longer as good as the ones in these lavatories) which adds to their appeal. The detailing of the interiors is as good as that of the exteriors with all dimensions worked out on a tile module so that there are no, or very few, cut tiles.

The WC cubicles are lined internally with galvanised steel sheets and the rear walls are tiled with rectangular white tiles. The original WCs were wall-hung with concealed cisterns and with controls set in the tiling but most of these have, unfortunately, been replaced with bog-standard, floor-standing WCs.

WC cubicle with original lavatory and control

The washbasins are also wall-hung and the originals seem to have survived. There are stainless steel mirrors, some of which have disappeared, set in the tiles above the basins and the original taps had controls set in the tiling but many of the taps have been replaced with ordinary taps. There seem to have been soap dispensers set in the walls above the basins but these have also disappeared.

Washbasins in men’s lavatory

The stainless-steel back-plate behind the hand-dryer in the men’s lavatory is still in place (this has not survived in the women’s lavatory) but the hand-dryers have been replaced.

In the men’s lavatory there is a long urinal constructed of white ceramic drainage units supported on a tiled support (angled to accommodate men’s toes) and with a stainless-steel splashback. In the women’s lavatory there is a concrete, tiled shelf for nappy changing (but there is not one in the men’s lavatory!).

Urinal in men’s lavatories

Nappy changing shelf in women’s lavatory with drainage channel below.

In both lavatories there is a tiled drainage channel along the external wall so that the floors can be easily washed down.

The service duct is accessed through a door at the entrance to the women’s lavatory (labelled attendant) with a slot window on the men’s side). It was not possible to access this but presumably there is an attendant’s room and from that, access to the service duct so that any problems with the plumbing, cisterns, electrics, etc can be put right.

Altogether, this is a beautifully designed and detailed building which has suffered badly from a lack of maintenance but which, in my opinion, deserves listing so that it cannot be demolished, and restoring to its original glory. For more photos of the building, see the photo gallery below.


Architecture in Developing Countries: A Resource

The design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health in rural areas of the developing world.

Nigel Wakeham is an architect who lived for 23 years in Southern and West Africa and the SW Pacific working on education, health and other projects. He has since worked for over 20 years as a consultant for national governments and agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, ADB and AfDB on the implementation of the construction components of education and health projects in many countries in the developing world.​

​The objective of this website will be to provide the benefit of more than 45 years of experience of working in developing countries to architects and other construction professionals involved in the design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health. It will provide reference material from the projects that Nigel has worked on and technical information on the design, construction and maintenance of educational and health facilities and other relevant topics and these will be added to from time to time.

I am happy to be contacted by anyone requiring further information on any of the projects or resources referred to in this website or by anyone wishing to discuss work possibilities.


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