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Distributed for Reaktion Books


 Most of us take modern bathrooms for granted—they are an essential part of our homes, but we ignore the complex network of pipes, pumps, and treatment plants that make up indoor plumbing’s infrastructure. Telling the story of one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering and mass production, Bathroom follows the room’s evolution and the lifestyle it enables.
Considering how and why the bathroom emerged, Barbara Penner describes how it became an international symbol of key modern values such as cleanliness, order, and progress. She explores how colonialism, the media, fashion, world expositions, and tourism led to the bathroom being exported across the globe and explains the tensions this process has caused. While Penner investigates bidets, high-tech toilets, cast-iron bathtubs, and walk-in showers, she also ponders the low-tech, sustainable alternatives available to us. Filled with illustrations, Bathroom is an amusing and eye-opening cultural history of one of our most used but overlooked rooms. 

336 pages | 40 color plates, 80 halftones | 6 x 8 1/2 | © 2013



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“For an investigation of how we evacuate and what we do with the results, this is a remarkably clean book. . . . Where the body and technology meet, this immensely useful little volume points out, is exactly where we have to confront our most basic self-image, but we always do so through an elaborate system that plugs that sense of our body into a network of implements and biases that are socially constructed.” 

Architectural Review

“A wide-ranging examination of bathroom fixtures, finish materials, and spaces.… Focuses on design but also discusses cultural influences, technology, and political forces.”
“Penner finds as much meaning in art about bathrooms… as in bathrooms themselves, and she uses a wide variety of sources deftly. The book is handsomely produced and briskly written, with a generous number of high-quality color photographs.”

Alison K. Hoagland, Michigan Technological University (emerita) | Winterthur Portfolio

Table of Contents


The Civilizing Bathroom

The Iconic Bathroom

The Rational Bathroom

The Soft Bathroom

The Inclusive Bathroom

The Alternative Bathroom


Select Bibliography


Photo Acknowledgements


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