Death of the Flushing Toilet?

Published: 31/05/2023 By Allan Fuller

A Finnish Huussi, or composting toilet, has been built in the centre of the country's pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, which aims at critically exploring the world's unsustainable approach to sanitation.

Declaring the "death of the flushing toilet as we know it" the pavilion, called Huussi – Imagining the Future History of Sanitation, was designed by The Dry Collective – a group of architects, designers and artists, and curated by Arja Renell.

The Finnish Pavilion is called Huussi – Imagining the Future History of Sanitation. The project is a response to the theme of the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale, The Laboratory of the Future, curated by Lesley Lokko and asking participants to consider what it means for architects to be "agents of change".

Finland's display begins with a mock archaeological excavation of a typical flushing toilet – responsible for 30 per cent of domestic water use in developed economies – in the grounds of the Alvar Aalto-designed pavilion, symbolically consigning it to the distant past. It explores the world's unsustainable approach to sanitation.

"We cannot live on a planet where billions of people use rapidly diminishing freshwater resources to flush their waste," said curator Arja Renell. "The whole system needs to change," she continued. "A shift will come as we begin to see our waste as a valuable resource, and transition to treating it as such."

Inside the pavilion, a cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure contains a domestic-scale Huussi, surrounded by wooden planters that have been fertilised using human urine-based fertiliser.

While the toilet cannot be used by visitors during the biennale, it will afterwards be donated to VERAS, a local non-profit organisation that owns an agricultural part and allotments on the nearby Venetian island of Vignole.