August 21, 2020
Public toilets always have been a necessary evil: Anyone in need of such a communal, open-door convenience always harbors two fears: Who is already in there? And just how filthy are the facilities?
Now, a famous Japanese architect has solved those problems with transparent walls that become opaque when the door locks on a single-service unit , and with vibrant colors and illumination that light up even the darkest area, to make the restrooms safe and attractive, NPR reports.
Indeed, according to architect Shigeru Ban;—and the Nippon Foundation, which funded the The Tokyo Toilet project— the transparent walls reveal to potential users what awaits them inside. After users enter the restroom and lock the door, the powder room’s walls turn a powdery pastel shade—and are no longer see-through.
“Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering,” the Nippon Foundation says of the new bathrooms in the parks throughout Tokyo’s Shibuya ward district. .
In order to come up with the prototype, the foundation enlisted world-famous architects to create toilets “like you’ve never seen.”
Indeed, the 16 architects who have been asked to reimagine public toilets are some of the brightest names in Japanese architecture. The list includes four Pritzker Architecture Prize winners—Ban, Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Fumihiko Maki – along with international stars such as Kengo Kuma and Sou Fujimoto. The fashion designer Nigo is also contributing.
As for cleanliness, the organizers say, “We at The Tokyo Toilet believe that providing a comfortable user experience through cleaning and maintenance is … important. The Nippon Foundation, the Shibuya city Government and the Shibuya Tourism Association will work together to maintain these facilities. We will also work with professional toilet inspectors to periodically survey the toilets to ensure we are providing the best user experience.”
The maintenance satus will be posted on the Toyko Toilet website to encourage users to help maintain cleanliness for the next person.
In all, NPR says, the Nippon Foundation is redesigning 17 public toilets in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s busiest shopping and entertainment districts. The foundation is working with the local government to deploy two of Japan’s national strengths —devotion to cleanliness and design —to address a public necessity.
Well-known toilet company TOTO, famous for its toilets that coddle users with features such as heated seats, bidets and deodorizers, “will advise on toilet equipment and layout,” the foundation says.
Ban’s colorful public bathrooms opened to the public this month in two parks: Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park. Other bespoke commodes will be opening in coming months.
Research contact: @NPR