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Marco Volken


Since our first toilet portfolio, we have received 3 or 4 portfolios on this subject every week. We decided to make it a series!



written by Marco Volken and published 2020 inside review l’Alpe.

If the need arises, a simple bush can do the trick. But above the forest floor, it is in vain that one would look for one. Even in the woods, it is better if the natural needs are concentrated in one and the same place, thus sparing the surroundings. This is how most hamlets and alpine chalets, refuges and bivouacs, have taken up residence for the final product of our … digestion.

Truth be told, a tree or a block of stones might suffice. But the sight of our natural traces makes us uneasy. They have to disappear from our sight and (quickly!) Into a hole, please. Add to this that when it comes to relieving ourselves, we prefer to remain discreet, even in the utter solitude of an alpine desert. Our private affairs almost always take place in a secure location.

Sure in case of rain or wind a roof over the head and some side walls are welcome. Just like a seat. Sometimes inside you can find calendar images: a vase with dried flowers or even a heart engraved on the door. So much so that you end up … lingering longer than necessary!

The images in this series are by no means the result of an original intention. They are the result of fortuitous discoveries in the middle of nature, often in the most unlikely places. My first pictures were thus born in passing. Over the years, a collection has been built up. It ended up leading to a first field study and then a systematic exploration of certain corners of the territory.

Nearly ten thousand photos have seen the light of day! They aim to document in all their diversity these places often despised or ignored. Some of these constructions have since disappeared or are hardly used any more. Others continue to operate to the satisfaction of their users. All would surely have many interesting things to tell us.

What conclusion should we draw from this perfectly unscientific field study? Clearly, this small-scale architecture enjoys a freedom it no longer has when tackling larger buildings. An open door to anarchy which is used in extremely diverse ways.

Each “littl’ haven” is an individual compromise between functionality and humor, originality and parsimony, minimalism and dignity, expertise and DIY … On the borders of privacy, comfort and relaxation.

The next time you use the toilet like this while hiking or running in the mountains, take a good look at this barracks. And its details. It is totally worth it. Even if you will not know the architect, he is quite likely to be very likeable to you.


Author Marco Volken

Photographer (since 1994) and writer, born in Milan, he now lives in Zurich after studying avalanches and atmospheric physics. A keen mountaineer and hiking enthusiast, Marco Volken is the author of numerous books including Lieux d’aisance (Places of ease), a book (quadrilingual, 2015, editions from which the images published here are extracted.


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