Elevator Urinal

Experiments for a Pleasant Elevator Ride, or, This is Not a Urinal: a Proposal and Framework

This is an OPEN CALL for intervention ideas and documentation. Responses will be published to this page.

Some elevators in large Brooklyn apartment buildings are subject to what some would call “undesirable” or “inappropriate” behavior: urination. As these buildings’ lobbies are used as gathering spaces for non-residents, such visitors relieve themselves in the private spaces these elevators afford. 302 Eastern Parkway is one such building. Its lobby and stairwells are venues for neighborhood drug dealers and, in the colder months, vagrants. This elevator is cleaned daily by building maintenance staff, but maintains a constant and very pungent odor. The purpose of this proposal is to suggest three interventions to be executed in this elevator in Brooklyn at any point in time. The interventions intend to alleviate the urination’s negative effects, not necessarily prevent or punish it (see Fig. 1).

The Interventions

1. Urinal Cake Floor (see Fig. 2)

The elevator currently has two ceiling-mounted air fresheners at opposite corners, reassuring that the Management is aware there is an odor and sanitation problem. This intervention proposes to line the floor of the 7-foot by 7-foot elevator with urinal deodorizing blocks, commonly called “cakes.” The purpose of this experiment is to provide riders with a more pleasant journey while calling greater and more focused attention to the elevator’s alternate use. Those participating in this alternate use may also notice that their behavior is indeed noticed as a nuisance to others in the building. Regardless of any change in behavior, the elevator will smell more fresh.

2. Moisture-triggered Monitoring & Reaction (see Fig. 3)

This intervention proposes to mount four moisture sensors in the lowest part of the non-level elevator floor. When triggered, the ceiling-mounted, locked and secured wireless camera will transmit images and/or video to a monitoring station in a nearby apartment. The speaker also located in the camera mount will then play soothing “elevator” music, in this case by the work of musician Kenneth Gorelick. This experiment is expected to capture both urinators and custodial staff, enabling the comparison of frequencies of the two actions. It is meant to entertain cleaning staff while they mop the floor as well as surprise and alienate the urinators. The presence of a conspicuous security camera is expected to radically change urination behavior in this elevator. Those who still remain motivated to urinate in the elevator, it is proposed, should be acknowledged with Adult Contemporary saxophone music.

3. This is a Urinal (see Fig. 4)

Repurposing the elevator entirely, this intervention transforms the elevator into an actual restroom. Four urinals are proposed to be installed, and the elevator is to remain on the ground floor or the building for the duration of the experiment. A sign with the words “Elevator Out of Order” is to be placed on it sliding door. Data is to be collected regarding communication received from tenants to the Management.

Download the PDF below, which contains details concerning collaborative partners and budget & materials required for the above interventions.


Kevin C. (New York, NY): Cover the elevator floor with a metal plate so that when urination occurs, a circuit is grounded and the participant receives a mild electric shock.

Paul S. (Ashford, CT): Place a grate floor inside the elevator, under which is small plastic containers. Test the contents of the receptacles for drug content, and assign police officers to the area according to the results.


%d bloggers like this: