Paris is full with little oddities and unusual things to see. One of them are empêche-pipi that can still be seen in many parts of the French capital, particularly at street angles. Let me tell you what these curious little structures are about…
The empêche-pipi of Paris
When walking in the streets of Paris, you have probably seen something looking like this:
Found in corners, the French call them ‘empêche-pipi’ and they are part of the street furniture of Paris alongside benches, lamp posts, fountains or bollards.
In 1850, following numerous complaints from citizens, a Chief of the Paris Police thought of a pee-repellent dispositive. His solution was to adorn the incriminated angles with ironworks (sometimes dotted with sharp spikes) or cone-shaped structures fixed against the wall.
They were called empêche-pipi, literally prevent pee. Other names in French included dispositifs anti-pisouille, pisse-pala, borne sanitaire, casse-pipi, casse-brayette, éclabousseur de chaussettes.
These anti-pee measure played a deterrent function: the pee would bounce directly back onto the legs and feet of the public pee-er, soaking their trousers – regardless of the jet’s power!
Let’s have a look at some empêche-pipi across Paris…
33 rue Saint-Sulpice (flanking the chevet of the church) (7th arrondissement):
At the church of Saint-Ambroise (11th arrondissement):
In the Marais:
At 1 rue Chapon (3rd arrondissement):
In Impasse de Conti (6th arrondissement):
At 16 rue du parc royal (3rd arrondissement):
At Villa de l’Ermitage (20th arrondissement):
This aspect of Paris I dislike
I have to confess that there are some aspects of Paris I dislike.
The smell of urine (from dogs or drunk men) is one of them. Walking through the streets of Paris can sometimes feel like going back to the Middle-Ages! Every little corners are favourite spots for a drunkard: doorways, behind trees and cars, on the steps down to the Métro… Public urination has a French name: pipi sauvage (wild peeing).
Outdoor urination in a public place was – and is still – forbidden. It is punishable by fines (35 euros).
Here and there you might read a notice fixed onto the doorways of residential buildings: « This door is the entrance to our building. Be nice and go and urinate elsewhere ».
Fortunately, the anti-pee dispositive was first supplemented with urinoirs and today with free sanisettes.
If you’re interested by more oddities of this kind in Paris, check out the last public urinoir standing in Paris!