Unlike so many contemporary cantilevers whose only purpose, seemingly, is to out-do other cantilevers in depth, height or width, the tiny cantilever poking out of the wall of this defunct factory in Vic, Catalonia, must surely have served a very precise function. But what?
There are several salient factors that can be analyzed: Firstly, the cantilever projects over a river, and rivers were, until well into the twentieth century, effectively sewers. Secondly, the cantilever has a short length of drain pipe emerging from its floor: sure, it could merely contain a hand-washing basin, but then the pipe’s diameter would likely be thinner. Thirdly, and finally, the cantilever is in Catalonia, where, as the late Robert Hughes points out in his book Barcelona, scatology is a long-standing cultural tradition that is celebrated in place names (especially the names of rivers), in popular expressions, and in Christmas rituals such as in the Tió de Nadal log that “shits” presents or the Caganer whose presence in nativity scenes is exclusive to this corner of the Iberian peninsula.
The only possible conclusion is, therefore, that the cantilever of the building shown above contains a latrine. In other words, it is a cantilever for responding to none other than the call of nature. How’s that for profound? Here we have a rare example of a cantilever that is downright primordial.
If, in contemporary architecture, the gesture of the cantilever has come to signify prowess, then what do we make of the above vernacular example? It is certainly a more ordinary, dare I say “everyday” example of a cantilever. Furthermore, by its very shitty detailing, this cantilever can be seen to be less anally retentive than most: we could say that it is a much more relaxed and easy-going cantilever. One thing is certain: this cantilever is built like a brick shithouse.