A couple of years ago, a screen of black wooden hoardings surrounded a disused toilet on Clerkenwell Green, and recently they became an ironic art installation.

More in modest protest at how long the area has been sealed off, and called “Black upon Green” by Izzy Lington, Timber and paint 2019. A number of small white boards of the sort found in art galleries are dotted around the black cocoon describing the artwork.

“This striking and unmissable installation was a controversial piece when first created as it was felt by some critics to be an utter eyesore. But as the years roll on it has, indeed, become part of the environment itself”.

Maybe a tad harsh considering that when the area was sealed off in 2019 they didn’t know that the builders probably wouldn’t be let back on the site until later this year.

The works that are, or at least were going on, will see the subterranean toilets which have been out of order since 1981 converted into a space suitable for the council to rent out. They suggest a gallery or cafe.

Basement plan – planning application documents

It’s quite small down there and made smaller by the intent to retain three of the George Jennings men’s urinals as architectural features, although they project a cafe could hold 40 people, which seems a lot once you add in the space for the kitchen and storage.

They managed to squeeze out some more space by removing the men’s staircase and retaining the ladies.

Planning permission was granted in March 2016, but amended in 2019, and then the hoardings went up to start work.

Intended final result – planning application documents

“This striking and unmissable art-installation deliberately seeks to reflect the decline of craftmanship in the local area. Its naive construction and brutal joinery make a bold, ironic statement about modern values. The coffin-like appearance covers historical public toilets and is said by critics to represent the death of Palladianism and Classicism.”

The builders will doubtless be back once it’s deemed safe to work on such a small building site with social distancing rules in place, but until then, please enjoy this Rothko inspired piece of public art. You’ll find it on Clerkenwell Green, near Farringdon station.

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