Dane Cook summed up the peril of the public restroom in a great stand-up bit that questions everything from the perpetual puddles to the writing on the stalls’ walls. All joking aside, public conveniences are an important part of our urban infrastructure. So much so that the Royal Institute of British Architects hosted a competition (appropriately named Flushed with Pride) to revive the Victorian tradition of the great British public toilet. They challenged the country’s best designers to come up with beautiful, practical alternatives to today’s lackluster loos that, as their site states, “are significantly blighted by poor design and poor maintenance, resulting in unsanitary facilities, anti-social behaviour, and vandalism.”
Recognizing the value of a positive public restroom experience, other cities have jumped on the better bathroom bandwagon. From colorful, freestanding concrete huts inspired by origami cranes to an award-winning, sculptural outhouse on the Colorado River, click through to check out some of the most stunning contemporary public restrooms in the world. Let us know what we might have missed in the comments below!
Hiroshima Park Restrooms by Future Studio
Image credit: Toshiyuki Yano via RECityMagazine
Designed to resemble origami cranes, the seventeen Hiroshima Park restrooms come in three different shapes, but each one has a unique color. Because function’s just as important as form, each small hut was painted with a special glossy formula that can be wiped clean for easy maintenance.
Perry Lakes Bathroom by Rural Studio – Marion, Alabama
Image credit: momeld
One of many sublime projects by the inspired Rural Studio, a hands-on design program at Auburn University helping to re-shape one of the poorest communities in America, this handmade wooden restroom is one of three “toilet experiences” in Perry County State Park. Of the three, this is the “long toilet which frames a tree.” The other two are a 50-foot “tall toilet” and a “mound toilet.”
Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail Restrooms by Miró Rivera Architects – Austin, Texas
This stunning public toilet/public art project in Austin, Texas won the American Institute of Architects Small Projects Award for creatively solving the need for light and ventilation. As the design team states, “panels are arranged forming a spine that coils at one end to form the restroom walls. The plates are staggered in plan to control views and to allow penetrating light and fresh air.” The sculptural building also includes a drinking fountain and outdoor shower to cool down after a hot, humid hike.
Kumutoto Toilets by Studio Pacific – Wellington, New Zealand
Image credit: dezeen
Perhaps the most playful of the lot, these public toilets were designed to look like sea creatures — a nod to the nearby harbor. In addition to considering security, hygiene, and vandalism, the local designers were challenged to create something iconic that also fit in with its surroundings. They deserve a big gold star for successfully integrating two headless crustacean-shaped bathrooms into otherwise normal urban surroundings.
Gravesend Public Toilet by Plastik Architects by Edmund Sumner – Kent, England
Image credit: Edmund Sumner via dezeen
Apparently, the local council asked for a “minor landmark” public convenience to act as the centerpiece to its regeneration masterplan. If you’re going to start something new, you might as well start with the bathrooms. The designers met the challenge with a cheerful interior beneath a bold, geometric exterior.
P-TREE by Aandeboom – multiple locations
Image credit: dezeen
Public peeing is an honest-to-goodness problem the world over. A clever Dutch design team came up with the idea of tree-mounted urinals to address the issue. Tested at two major European festivals, their cheeky, albeit well-designed solution did significantly reduce the perpetual issue.
Roadside Reststop Akkarvikodden by Manthey Kula Architects – Lofoten, Norway
Image credit: Paul Warchol via designboom
If you ever find yourself driving along this remote scenic highway in northern Norway, be sure to stop and see a stunning hybrid of nature and design, in the form of a rest stop.
Safe Haven Bath House by TYIN tegnestue Architects – Ban Tha Song Yang, Thailand
Image credit: Pasi Aalto via TYIN tegnestue
Fifteen Norwegian architecture students were invited to participate in a workshop aimed at improving the quality of life at an orphanage in Thailand. The result? Built for a mere $3,800 with locally sourced and re-used materials, this unique, open-air bath house has significantly reduced the transmission of disease in the impoverished area. Proof that good design really does make the world a better place. And, that it doesn’t have to cost much.
Tokinokura Lavatories Shimodate by Shuichiro Yoshida – Chikusei City, Japan
Image credit: Sadamu Saito via Architecture News Plus
Sandwiched between two traditional Japanese buildings, this narrow public restroom makes great use of unused urban nooks and crannies.
Public Restroom by Diego Jobell – Rosaria, Argentina
Image credit: inhabitat
If you’re going to make it pretty, you might as well make it green.