Austin’s thriving pop-up scene keeps the city’s tastemakers on their toes, with restaurant concepts, avant-garde exhibits and mobile boutiques defining the cutting edge of cool. So when I got wind of an exclusive new pop-up concept opening last week at the corner of East Sixth Street and the I-35 Frontage Road, I obviously knew I had to get inside by any means necessary.
It’s called Public Toilet, and it’s the latest hotspot in a city already fixing to melt from sheer hotness. Public Toilet, also known to the locals as Baño Público, is so hot that each visitor is only allowed to stay in the space for 10 minutes at a time — reminiscent of the time limits imposed at ultra-hip art installations with hour-long waits just to snap a photo. What could possibly be inside? Here’s what I found:
When I called Public Toilet a hotspot, what I meant was that it was new and exciting, not that it was literally hot inside. In fact, it’s very cold, almost surprisingly so. There is an air conditioner on the roof, you see.
The spare, industrial vibe of the trailer’s interior embodies Austin’s down-to-earth contemporary aesthetic, right down to the ironic juxtaposition of the toilet and words “NON POTABLE WATER” painted on the wall above, an obvious wink to the works of surrealist masters Magritte and Duchamp.
Part of the Public Toilet experience is about following the rules, which include the stern 10-minute time limit. Rather than a regular sink, the minds behind the radically minimalist space streamlined the experience by installing a hand sanitizer station by the door.
If you wanted to really lean into the pop-up’s speakeasy experience, you might consider drinking a few slugs of the alchohol-based hand sanitizer, a possibility Public Toilet’s designers brought up in the planning stages of the installation — but it appears that they’ve gotten over their concern.
Like many pop-ups, if Public Toilet is successful, there’s a good chance the space will eventually make the transition to a brick-and-mortar concept. And that’s a good thing, because this project will change lives. You heard it here first.