Toilets are tricky.
The vast majority of us take them for granted, even though we visit them a number of times each day. No matter who we are, it is one of our most basic human needs. Designing them should be simple, but in reality, there is a huge amount to know. There are also many solutions, depending on the client brief.
In one sense they need to be functional, easy to maintain, respect privacy and comfort. They can also be regarded as a work of art, an experience, a pleasure and possibly inspirational. How many problems have been solved in the loo? How many great ideas?
Secluded toilet – Ichihara-city, Chiba, Japan by sou fujimoto architects – image by iwan baan
There are articles and lists of the best washrooms in the world. Illustrated above is a toilet in a secluded garden near the city of Ichihara in Chiba, Japan. It is a masterpiece of careful design, reflection and a rare opportunity to ‘spend a penny’ (or yen) in a way most of us would find quite challenging.
This is an extreme example, but it illustrates how understanding the most basic of human needs requires careful thought.
section – image courtesy of sou fujimoto architects
‘The project merges the notions of public and private, opened and closed, nature and built architecture, and smallness and largeness.
For privacy, a log roll fence has been installed around the glass box toilet. The result is a lavatory inside a glass box that has been placed in the middle of a 200 square metre garden planted with trees and flowers. This provides occupants a serene view while using the facilities. This multi-layering and divergence of internal and external boundaries converge into one another while maintaining a certain ambiguity that suggests a primitive form of architecture.” (designboom 2013)
Clearly, this is an extraordinary example. Most of the time, projects are a little less adventurous. Architects are expected to deliver thoughtful and efficient washrooms that meet the needs of the building occupants, the standards required by legislation and the budgetary constraints of the project, whilst providing a pleasant environment.
But this belies the complexity of creating a solution that goes beyond the brief and creates something that people feel comfortable and safe using.
There is little in the way of standards or legislation that provides enough clarity in an increasingly complex environment.
The most recent legislation is quite old: Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Executive guidance (updated 2013). This states ‘appropriate and sufficient sanitary amenities should be easily accessible.’ Then there are the Gender Recognition Act (2004) and Equality Act (2010) which provide more specific guidance on inclusivity and access.
When it comes to more specific situations such as schools, there is a bit more to go on, but even this is not straightforward. Issues of safety, bullying and inclusivity have reshaped the provision of washrooms and many have been carefully designed and specified to be gender-neutral.
Effective solutions do exist.
Concept Cubicle Systems have helped many clients create truly inclusive, safe and private washrooms that meet the needs of the building occupants. We have many examples of successful designs and installations that can assist the architect to confidently reach a solution.
We have developed a successful range of solutions from the very large, such as Liverpool St. Station in London, a key part of our transport heritage and infrastructure, handling an incredible 64 million passengers annually.
Architects are expected to know so much about so many things. Research has shown that the more experience an architect gains, the more they tend to rely on solutions and building products that they trust. At CCS, we pride ourselves on our partnerships with architects in finding the right solution.
That being said, whilst we are proud to be experts in our field, unlike sou fujimoto architects ,we have yet to install a washroom in a field.
For more information on how we can help, please contact us below.
Phone: 0161 241 9066