Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Hamburg's St. Pauli nightlife quarter deals with more than its fair share of rogue urinators. Residents there are hoping liquid-resistant paint will help.
On a busy night, the Hamburg neighborhood of St. Pauli can end up getting pretty stinky. This famous red light and entertainment district is where the Beatles once got their first big break, and even today its raucous bars and cabarets attract up to 20 million visitors a year.
The influx brings some predictable problems. Most visitors come by night, a lot of them come to drink, and far too many of them end up peeing where they shouldn’t. With drunken visitors emptying their bladders onto random walls night in, night out, St Pauli’s weekly invasion adds up to a whole lot of urine going where it shouldn’t. Now locals are fighting back against wildpinkler (German for “wild pee-ers”) with a new weapon. As the video below explains, St. Pauli is peeing back.
The neighborhood’s residents aren’t literally going round to wild pee-ers homes and urinating on their doorsteps (though that would actually be kind of brilliant). They’re simply making sure offenders get a small taste of their own medicine by painting walls with splash-creating, urine retardant paint. In keeping with this harbor neighborhood’s nautical traditions, the paint St. Pauli is using normally coats ships’ hulls. It’s so liquid-resistant that anyone peeing on it is liable to end up soiling themselves all over.
While not every wall in the neighborhood has been painted, no wall is strictly safe anymore either. To keep potential offenders on their guard, some of the painted walls have “Don’t Pee Here” signs warning them off, but others have been left blank.
The intention of the St. Pauli Pees Back campaign is about more than just giving rogue urinators a taste of their own medicine. It may be an area where people go to get crazy, but St. Pauli is also home to many residents—off the main drag, many parts of it are really pretty nice. Residents aren’t fighting nightlife per se, but they’d like a little respect. As the campaign’s organizer, local Julia Staron, put it to Spiegel magazine, it’s also about laying out some basic visitor guidelines.
“We don’t want to send tourists away, we’re happy to host them. The solution is just to explain our rules. Don’t photograph prostitutes while they’re working. Don’t vomit in mailboxes. And now, don’t pee on walls! This paint action is just the beginning.”