Zurich’s ‘Sex Boxes’

Short position piece for the UK’s Building Design magazine. The project deserves some serious attention from a UCS reader or two – rich, political, ambiguous, aesthetically complex. What better topic for cultural studies?

RICHARD J WILLIAMS

Article first published in Building Design, August 2013. For more on BD, and how to subscribe, go to http://www.bdonline.co.uk 

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There was much chortling this week at the opening of Zurich’s scheme for rehabilitating street prostitution via so-called “sex boxes”. Reported by the global media, the scheme is a practical approach to a real problem: street prostitution in the Sihlquai neighbourhood, which had reached uncontrollable proportions, with attendant problems of waste. Residents were used to finding prostitutes and clients using their gardens as public toilets.

The trial solution is neat. On a bit of railway land, 2km west of the city centre, social services have built a terrace of wooden drive-in huts. The design is superbly restrained Swiss-minimalist-modernist. Think Peter Zumthor with condoms.

It’s all very decently landscaped, and at night is lit up with an appealing red/green colour scheme. The cabins are open at one end, so there…

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About Richard J Williams

Professor of contemporary visual cultures. Writes about and teaches cities, takes pictures, and does many things at University of Edinburgh, UK. Books on cities include 'The Anxious City' (Routledge, 2004), 'Brazil' (Reaktion 2009), 'Regenerating Culture and Society' (edited with Jonathan Harris, LUP 2010), and 'Sex and Buildings' (Reaktion, 2013). In preparation is The Creative City (Reaktion 2016).

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