Designing a Better Public Toilet

From the Perry Lakes Park Bathrooms to the Calder Woodburn Rest Area, a look at inspiring designs for public facilities, which are too often hidden behind blind walls and unmarked doors

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Everybody needs to visit the restroom once in a while. But for most of us in Europe and the United States, there is nothing public about what takes place inside, making these inescapably important amenities something of a gray zone when it comes to public buildings (yes, that's what they are).

In a massive effort to make them inconspicuous, public facilities have been standardized, buried in underground bunkers, hidden behind blind walls and unmarked doors. But it's light and ventilation -- exposure -- that keep bacteria and odors at bay. At times, it seems our embarrassment with their very existence has led to an inability to provide sound sanitation. Or could it be the other way around, that avoiding public facilities is a result of intolerable conditions?

Whatever the case, people around the world -- and throughout history -- have developed unique responses to facilities, bringing various levels of open-mindedness and humor to their descriptions of such places. Whether you refer to them as restrooms, the loo, the house number 00 you need to visit, or just a place to powder your nose, public amenities are a challenging opportunity for inspiring design.


View the complete OpenBuildings collection: Public Toilets International.

Image: John Gollings.

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OpenBuildings is a community-driven encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. It is a database of historic, contemporary, and conceptual architecture that exists as a website and applications for iPhone and Android.

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