St. Pauli, a salty and decidedly non-salubrious waterfront quarter in Hamburg, Germany, is one of the greatest party zones in Europe, if not the entire world. Originally overrun with sailors, it’s a neighborhood lousy with pubs, cocktail bars, nightclubs, strip joints, cabarets and concert venues. Kind of a longshoreman's take on Las Vegas, St. Pauli also is home to a red light district, Reeperbahn, which rivals Amsterdam’s in notoriety.

In addition to being a let-your-hair-down-and-go-wild kind of place, St. Pauli is also, well, pretty normal — it’s not entirely a debauched Disneyland where the streets are lined with lager bottles and discarded cigarette butts. People live, work and go about their normal, everyday lives here. Although a small neighborhood, St. Pauli is filled with fantastic parks, cultural attractions and, yes, a host of family-friendly diversions. It’s also a neighborhood that, when the sun rises in the morning, smells like one giant latrine.

Given its global reputation as a great place to get tanked, St. Pauli, much to the chagrin of the locals, has long been a hotbed of public urination. The neighborhood’s most famous former residents, the Beatles, even partook in this unsavory St. Pauli pastime according to popular myth.

The members of neighborhood community group IG St. Pauli, however, have had it with the disagreeable smells and unsightly pee-stained walls. And so, they’ve launched an anti-public urination campaign — a “pee back” initiative, if you will — that gives inebriated revelers who respond to nature’s call against the side of a building the chance to experience the sensation of being urinated on themselves.

The group's tactic is simple yet ingenious: frequently peed-upon walls across the neighborhood have been treated with a coating of hydrophobic, or water-repellent, paint. When full-bladdered party animals — or wildpinklers (“wild pee-ers”) as they're known — decide to unleash a torrent against one of these walls, their urine is deflected and, ideally, splashed right back onto their shoes and pants.

Some of St. Pauli’s urine-deflecting walls sport cautionary signage: Hier nicht pinkeln! Wir pinkeln zurueck! (Translation: “Don’t pee here! We pee back!”) Other walls do not provide potential wildpinklers with any sort of warning.

The urine-deflecting paint itself isn’t some kind of newfangled, specialized technology developed specifically to address the problem. (I can’t help but think of those anti-graffiti walls from “The Naked Gun”). Rather, the paint is the same kind used by shipbuilders to coat the hulls of vessels in Hamburg’s bustling port, the third busiest in Europe behind Rotterdam and Antwerp.

The Guardian describes Ultra-Ever Dry, the paint used by IG St. Pauli, as being “intensely hydrophobic.”

According to the manufacturer’s website, Ultra-Ever Dry uses nanotechnology to coat an object and ‘create a barrier of air on its surface.’ The paint is expected to last up to a year outside on the walls of St Pauli — though it is susceptible to damage through abrasion.

“The liquid rebounds with almost the same force with which it hits," Julia Staron, a spokesperson for St. Pauli’s neighborhood association, elaborates to German news magazine Spiegel.

Of course, public urinators can be fined if nabbed, yellow-handed, by the police. There’s also already a decent amount of existing signage in place that discourages al fresco urination. But because of their sheer numbers, wildpinklers have managed to largely run free and unpunished.

One major caveat that Staron and her cohorts have encountered thus far in their crusade to tame rampant wildpinklers is the price of the paint. She tells Reuters that it costs about 500 euros (roughly $554 dollars) to tackle a 65-square-foot area. Despite this, the impact has been nothing but beneficial: “If you compare the work involved for daily cleaning of the mess and the awful smell, as well as all the collateral damage involved, it has definitely been well worth it.”

Staron explains to Spiegel that the campaign is not meant to dissuade bender-happy tourists from visiting St. Pauli — “we are happy to host.” Over 20 million visitors descend on St. Pauli each year, a large majority of them looking to behave badly. However, she does reiterate that there are rules and that the rules need to be observed: no photographing prostitutes, no vomiting in mailboxes and no making water against a wall.

In addition to coating select walls with the special paint, another anti-public urination initiative is also set to launch in the coming weeks in the form of a “Pinkel Card.” Operating like a standard punch card, St. Pauli partygoers will get a stamp each time that they exhibit sound judgment and decide to use a designated restroom at a bar or restaurant instead of wandering outside in search of a free wall — even if that means waiting on line. For the sixth stamp received, they’ll be rewarded with a free shot.

Via [Spiegel] via [The Independent], [Reuters], [The Guardian]

Reeperbahn photo: stadtfahrt-hamburg/flickr

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

In rowdy Hamburg neighborhood, public urinators given taste of their own medicine
The secret weapon in the war against impolite public peeing in St. Pauli? A water-repellent paint normally used in shipbuilding.