Flush this: A discussion in two parts.

Dateline: Yesterday.

A bunch of Architects and Designers get together both in person in the UK and online everywhere on Earth to discuss “matters of importance”. Most interesting conversation?

Bathrooms. We’re a wild bunch, let me tell you.

After trying to have this conversation in 140 characters or less, I realized it was once again time for me to start the Bathroom Manifesto Smackdown. I don’t think I’ve done it since I started this blog, but I’ve done it many, many times previously. However in this case there’s two different topics that need addressing and so I’m going to divide this into two parts so as not to confuse the issue in comments.

I had made the comment that I would settle for bathrooms not being an afterthought (I am STILL looking at you, Warner Center…). I have long been the champion of getting bathrooms right, so let’s take it from the top:

A bathroom, no matter where you design it, is an exercise in designing an experience. If you think it isn’t? You are missing a design and psychological opportunity and failing your clients.

Now, in a residential setting, this is obvious. If it weren’t true, there wouldn’t be a multimillion dollar bathroom industry. Bed, Bath and Bedamned wouldn’t exist, and Kohler would have gone out of business years ago. Proving the case for this in a residential setting is a no-brainer.

But what about all those other spaces? Retail, Hospitality, Restaurant, Office, Airports, Public Spaces, Convention Centers, etc. (I’m going to leave institutional design off this list because it’s governed by different priorities.) Guess what? It’s true of those places too. The question is identifying the goals of the people using the space and what the priorities of that experience are. It goes beyond peeing, people.

Here’s an example – In an office environment. Particularly here in the US where we work more hours a year than most other countries, you spend a lot of time at the office. Since fewer people smoke these days, there is less of a built in time or excuse to simply *walk away* for five minutes. People eat lunch at their desks, and they stare at a computer screen for long hours. But eventually, everyone is going to have to go to the bathroom. That’s an opportunity. I don’t mean it has to be the most luxurious event ever. What I do mean is that with a little forethought, people can walk away for that five minutes and actually come back a bit more relaxed, a little calmer, a bit more ready to tackle their day. Make those five minutes pleasant, and you get more pleasant people to deal with in general. Though people may do vastly different jobs in the same office what they all have in common is that at some point, they’re all going to need a bio break. It’s an opportunity to create a pleasant experience for everyone by design- one that levels the playing field for everyone and one where people can be equally comfortable.

In restaurants, if you blow the bathroom, you have *failed* as a restaurant designer. Honestly. No matter how much or how little room you have to work with, there is a way to make that experience part of the overall restaurant environment; make it part of a holistic package.

This overall idea can carry over into any kind of bathroom design situation. That’s not to say you should ignore the overall priorities of the project- but for every project there is a way to make the bathroom work and make people more happy, more relaxed, more ready to deal with the rest of their day due to the experience you provide, by design.

Bathrooms are fantastic equalizers. The question is what level do we want to equalize *to*?

Thus endeth part one. Part two is about bathroom and gender. Yeah that ought to get good, cause we all know how much I love institutionalized sexism. *eyeroll*


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