A professor of architecture at Cornell University, Alexander Kira first published his authoritative book on the loo — The Bathroom — in 1966 after having researched its design and function since the late Fifties.
The book was written for students and architects, but there’s enough history and social aspects and humorous asides that anyone with an interest in tub angles, urine streams or public restroom design will appreciate it. Kira sets out to examine “our attitudes toward personal hygiene activities and the facilities we use to accommodate them; our basic physiological requirements; our patterns of performing the necessary actions; and the development of design criteria to fulfill those needs.”
He discusses why North Americans have rejected the European bidet as a way to clean the anus after defecation, and says that rejection wouldn’t have been such a big deal if only we were better at wiping ourselves. He cites a study of British men that found that nine percent were not wearing underpants and 44 percent “revealed fecal contamination of their underpants or trousers, ranging from ‘wasp-coloured staining’ to ‘frank massive faeces.’ ” The study’s author concluded wryly that many men are “prepared to complain about a tomato sauce stain on a restaurant tablecloth whilst they luxuriate on a plush seat in their faecally-stained pants.”
Related post: Ergonomics of the Toilet