Toilettes in a cemetery are hardly the most appealing projects. Partly due to their design brief, partly because of their context and also due to the lack of budget. Nevertheless, for M2.senos, the refurbishment of this cemetery toilet block in Ilhavo, Portugal was very exciting.

“We have been there a few times before and we were always uncomfortable, looking at the floor trying not to stumble in the narrow paths between the great marble stones. So when we were asked to do the rehabilitation of the toilettes (the old building), it was as if it was the first time there. We perceive the hierarchies, the streets, the paths, the square, the church, the entrances and the exits, the trees, the stones, and the green flowerbeds… How beautiful and organized!” explains the design team.

The previous building was huge and out of context, with vast flat roofs that almost touched the chapel. “It was a ‘sacrilege’ to see this scenario from the south entrance of the cemetery. All we did was to reduce the size and to summarize the information. An abstract exercise to create an abstract object: no doors, no windows, no sheds or porches,” said the architects.

The idea of using ceramic tile cladding came naturally. And it was evident: the ceramic tiles had to be green. The object needed to be more related to the natural elements, and less to the built forms, in order to highlight the church located close by. To achieve a uniform and neutral object, the ceramic tiles had to cover the entire building. But then comes the reality, both technical and financial kind.

The workers did not know how to do it. And how about the time schedule? Was it expensive? “The design solves everything!,” said M2.senos. “We added plaster to optimize typical tiles and to reduce the technical difficulties. A teamwork!”

This is a building without technology, which means the natural airflow dehumidifies and renews the air. The interiors are all-white with natural light illuminating the space via the skylights, with marble washbasins matching the outdoor objects of the cemetery.

 

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[Images courtesy of M2.senos. Photography by Primus Vitória.]

 

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