Michael Moore’s documentaries always reveal some shocking facts, such as the “prison hotel” in Roger & Me (1989). As a response to the increasing criminal rate in the abandoned automobile city Flint, a large brand-new jail was built. On the night before it opened, a big party was held there and a couple could pay $100 to stay overnight. Many people paid to stay because they wanted to have the experience of living in jail. Ironically, the most luxury hotel Hyatt went bankrupt due to lack of visitors.
This phenomenon reminds me of the world’s largest restroom, as one of the main structures of a theme park in Chongqing. The building looks like a cheap amusement park castle with 1000 toilets inside. Some of the urinals have fancy shapes such as a crocodile mouth and Virgin Mary. It was the mayor’s decision to make a new attraction or a “culture” out of the toilet. To their satisfaction, the huge restroom entered the Guinness World Record. But I doubt what kind of attraction or culture it will bring to people simply considering the smell of that place.
In the realm of profit-driven capitalism, either the form or function of a familiar space can be replaced. In this case, prison and restroom are transformed into festal space. The degree of being public or private in such space also gets shifted: the jail hotel becomes publicly private; the restroom castle becomes privately public. Is it a new type of heterotopia?
More satirically, the restroom is made of all recycled materials. Perhaps it’ll get LEED certified? Remember the 60-story single-family home being built for the Indian rich is also a green building? Does the idea of sustainability not offer a convenient excuse to build socially controversial buildings today?