Elevating the Discourse: Public Toilets pt. 1

foto: flickr user EYLC

Toilets – almost everyone needs them, almost every project has them. Unfortunately, there has been a significant drought of naturally-lit, adequately ventilated and well-designed public restrooms. It’s no secret that light and ventilation keep bacteria and odors at bay – and can potentially elevate the process of squatting to a zen-like experience. Designers also need to work around tougher issues such as bored teenagers, spray paint and burning bowling balls. When working with the Seattle Parks Department, I came to realize that these utilitarian structures needed to ideally be bomb-proof – designed so nothing can burn, pipes are kept safe and with just enough visibility to deter illegal activities yet provide privacy. While you won’t find many comfort stations with Vola fixtures, the following are some of our favorites and definitely take the act of squatting in public to a much, much better place.

Perry Lakes Park Bathrooms, 2003

architect:  Rural Studio

location: Marion, AL (US)

Rural Studio has been in the back of our minds since the early days of school. Under the guidance of Sambo, there were some incredible ideas brought to fruition. One of the more interesting realizations was the thesis project for Brannen Park, Melissa Sullivan, Sarah Dunn and Matt Foley. Three toilets, three different experiences. Materials used match a pavilion built at Perry Lakes Park the previous year. These are some loos where you could really meditate for a while.

Halftecture OO, 2006

architect: Shuhei Endo

location: Chuouku (JP)

Two corten endwalls support a 16 mm thick sheet of corten steel. Light, airy and definitely some structural gymnastics, this would make an impressive house – let alone a toilet. More photos/info on archdaily.

Calder Woodburn Rest Station, 2009

architect: BKK Architects

location: Shepparton (AU)

A celebration of the road trip, the automobile and durability – this stunning rest stop by BKK exudes a robustness and coolness of yesteryear. Concrete cylinders were cast on site with a ribbed profile to deter graffiti. One would almost need a 356 speedster or 2cv to roll into this baby.

Trail Restroom, 2008

foto: piston design

architect:  Miro Rivera Architects

location: Austin, TX (US)

It’s easy to see why this public restroom was winner of so many awards – this elegant water closet is a true work of art. 49 corten plates of varying size coil around and form the enclosed restroom. The plates are offset to allow natural light and ventilation into the toilet. The way the roof is held off the walls is incredible. Steel placement video via youtube.

Further Reading

  • The Toilet Papers by Sim Van der Ryn  has an interesting overview on squatting in various cultures.

3 responses to “Elevating the Discourse: Public Toilets pt. 1

  1. Great theme, bravo! Restroom design in America has become so standardized that it’s easy to forget that they still provide an opportunity for good design. You’ve featured some very inspiring examples.

  2. thanks, build.

    regarding the standardization – it seems a lot of parks depts have too many security and durability criteria/concerns that it can be hard to push anything too innovative. there is is definitely a lot of potential to better these project types, though.

    we’ve got a few more up our sleeve, so stay tuned…

  3. Pingback: Editor’s Picks #175 « Architects Directory