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Architecture alumna Ruth Pearn proposes public bathhouse to fight period poverty in Yorkshire

Architecture and Interiors 19 September 2018

Westminster’s Master of Architecture (MArch) (RIBA Pt II) alumna Ruth Pearn designed the concept for a bathhouse which would lessen period poverty and combat stigma around menstruation as her graduate project.

Tutored by Clare Carter, Gillian Lambert and Nicholas Wood, Ruth’s project ‘The New Public Convenience: Hull’s Bath House & Lady Garden’ reimagines the historic public toilets in Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, as a way to improve access to adequate sanitary protection.

The project responds to local issues surrounding period poverty and the wider debate about access to bathrooms. Talking about her project in a recent article for dezeen, Ruth explained: “For those affected this is not only humiliating and debilitating, but can result in women missing work and girls missing school. The taboos that surround menstruation render many women too ashamed to seek support.”

Designed as a nineteenth-century shopping arcade, Hull’s Bath House & Lady Garden draws from the Edwardian and Victorian architecture of Kingston upon Hull’s public toilets. It would include a launderette, salon, clothes hire, as well as public toilets, baths and showers.

Ruth’s project also includes a scheme to recycle tampons made from organic cotton into compost to fertilise the plants and to heat up water for the building. Wastewater would syphon off for the plants by using greywater filters and essential oils would be extracted from them and used for making soaps. These would then be sold and the profits reinvested in the running of the project.

Set in the city centre, the building’s lanterns and bays allude to its industrial heritage and make the sustainable elements obvious through visible plumbing, steam distillers and heat exchangers. The public baths would be accessible and open to everyone to encourage inclusivity and break down taboos around menstruation. 

Talking about her experience at the University of Westminster, Ruth said: “The dissertation component of the course was particularly appealing, offering a platform to complete a comprehensive piece of specialised architectural research. Moreover, I was drawn to the centrality of place in the studio’s approach and the generous amount of time designated to researching the character, history and geographies of the site; Kingston upon Hull.

"The studio ethos was encouraging of design agendas that were non-conformist, frank and relevant. This helped to heighten my confidence to tackle the subject of hygiene and period poverty in my final design project. It allowed me to explore both the aspects of architecture that I most enjoy and social agendas that I strongly support.”

Images: Ruth Pearn

Read more about the Master of Architecture (March) (RIBA Pt II) offered at the University of Westminster.

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