As designers and builders of outdoor showers, we are always playing around with new ideas, new looks and new materials. At heart, we believe that showering outdoors invigorates the body and is good for the soul. There is something wonderful about a warm enveloping rainfall. We also believe there is something wonderful about feeding the artistic senses and creative spirit. Our newest design, the P.S. 122, evolved with both of these things in mind as it blends nature, design, technology and our commitment to supporting the performing arts.
The idea for the P.S.122 grew out of a desire to make a simplified version of our Fjord model using flat architectural panels for the enclosure instead of alternating slats. We’d also been looking for more sustainable materials for our design ideas. In March, when we were exhibiting at the Architectural Design show in NYC, Brooks Perlin approached us from Eco-supply and said he had some materials we might find interesting. He sent us samples of a farmed teak (grown on reclaimed ranch lands in Mexico) and Richlite – made from recycled newsprint that is heated with a natural resin to create an extremely hard, durable, waterproof, weatherproof material — perfect for outdoor showers! The two materials played off each other beautifully, so we decided to make a prototype.
The starting point was to figure out how to frame the Richlite with the teak, and then secure the frame within the stainless steel structure. We wanted to use the same basic design concept for attaching the panels so that the steel frames could be used for either model. Standardizing both the pieces and the way they fit together allows us to capture and pass on to our customers the economies of pre-fab design. We also wanted to incorporate corrugated galvanized metal to give the shower a more urban, industrial look. Finding the right balance of metal, Richlite and teak was a matter of trial and error, guided by instinct.
While we did not intend for the P.S.122 to look like an old schoolhouse chalkboard, its “blackboard” appearance struck us immediately once the prototype was completed. We started thinking about the public schools we had attended as kids (PS 86, PS 70), and then landed on P.S. 122, a public school-turned-performing arts center in Manhattan’s East Village.
We have a strong personal connection to live performance and dance. Jim, one half of Oborain, has a Masters in acting and dance movement therapy. At one point he was involved in “Open Movement,” an improv dance style at P.S. 122. The style had a lot of contact and some of it was pretty wild- it also involved a vibrant community and a wonderful exchange between people.
As a vibrant performance venue, P.S.122 supports new and emerging artists “whose work challenges the boundaries of live performance.” Recognizing the important link between creativity, the arts and innovation, we have committed to donating 5% of sales proceeds from this shower to P.S.122 in support of their work in bringing new ideas and voices into our cultural milieu.
Credits: Dance image courtesy of the Ohio State University website. P.S. 122 building image courtesy of the P.S. 122 website.
When we first started telling folks that we were designing a pre-fab outdoor shower, their reactions would generally fall into two categories. Either their faces would light up and they’d say, “Oh yeah! I love outdoor showers!” Or they’d look at us like we’d suggested streaking their neighbors and say “Why would I want to shower outdoors?”
No one seemed to fall in the middle. For anyone who has ever, even once, taken a shower en plein aire, the memory seems to hold as a peak experience, an exuberant moment of aliveness against the backdrop of existence.
We agree. But what is it about showering outdoors that makes it so great – the highlight of the vacation, or the one thing remembered about a childhood visit to a cabin in the woods? People don’t just like showering outdoors. They’re crazy about it! They swear by it. We’ve met people out here in Western Mass who adhere to the daily ritual of showering outdoors 365 days a year, slipping on ice as they run from the deck door to the shower.
We think it has something to do with waking up. Not just the pre-caffeinated chore of getting our eyelids open in the morning, but of really waking up… of fully opening our senses to the world around us. The daily shower is an intimate moment of self-nourishment, in which we expose ourselves only to our own awareness. Or a vulnerable moment without self-consciousness.
To experience this moment outdoors, however… concealed from the public, yet open, exposed in our self-nurturing only to the elements, the sky, the air around us…that is to be in some primordial connection to the world. Easier done for those of us who live in rural areas, perhaps. But the ritual seems to hold equal sway over city dwellers.
A recent article in the NYT (“Skinny-dipping in the City,” 8/15/12) spoke to this phenomenon. Writer Emily Weinstein spoke with a number of urban outdoor shower aficionados, including San Francisco-based architect Seth Boor who observed: “You’re warm and vulnerable, but hearing all the sounds of the city around you. You just hear and sense everything, but you’re in your own little private space.”
The article also quotes Robby Brown, a broker with the Corcoran Group in NYC, who takes his morning shower on a terrace overlooking Central Park. “I would feel self-conscious getting into a hot tub on my terrace,” he says. “But there is something very liberating about being in the shower.”
An intimate celebration of aliveness and connection with the world. A moment of awakening. What is it for you? Why do you love showering outdoors? We’d love to hear.