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Winchester's merciful relief . . .

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WC SPECIAL

When Winchester City Council invited Architecture plb to refurbish and modernise the city's Market Lane public conveniences, it was looking for a 'flagship' wc and a facility that could deal with the year-round flow of tourists visiting the city and cathedral.

The 1950 building is undistinguished, but its position, facing on to St Maurice's Covert, is central and important - the covert is used as a covered market place and is also a site of archaeological importance, close to the cathedral precinct and the high street. A key concern was the appearance of the entrance elevation on this side of the building. The council also wanted the architect to help overcome problems of misuse exacerbated by the internal configuration: small ante-rooms and cubicles arranged around a dark internal stair, and internal partitions built across windows and cutting off natural light from common areas.

Architecture plb produced a contemporary solution to a challenging brief. The interior was gutted, piles driven inside the walls and a steel structure inserted. Glazing on the important entrance facade in St Maurice's Covert brings light into the building and emphasises a friendly ground-floor attendant's room. A stairway to the men's wc on the first floor becomes a gently sloping bridge at its dog-leg turn, and passes visibly behind the facade glazing. The women's wc, disabled wc and baby changing room are at ground-floor level. wc bowls are wall-hung to facilitate cleaning and a central services duct allows easy access for maintenance. Cubicles are arranged behind this duct, rather than against walls where they would obstruct natural light. A heavy pivoting timber door and etched glass canopy give the new entrance to the transformed public convenience a thoroughly modern and welcoming presence.

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