Bathrooms, whether public or private, encounter plenty of abuse. The constant inflow and outflow of water paired with limited space and high demands on hygiene and efficiency make it one of the most difficult rooms to design. But there are plenty of architects who have stepped up to the challenge. Here are some of the most innovative bathroom engineering in the world.
2. First exhibited outside the Tate Britain Museum in London in 2003, this see-thru loo is an art piece known as “Don’t Miss a Sec”, by conceptual artist Monica Bonvicini. She wanted to see if anyone would use it as, using one-way mirrors, you can clearly see out, but no one can see in. Thanks silverfox09.
9. Now isn’t this a beautiful toilet-going experience? These stalls are at China House in TianJing, where the whole house is covered in mosaic tiles in the same style as Casa Gaudi in Barcelona. Thanks IvanWalsh.com.
Location /// Seattle, WA Background: The bathrooms at Columbia Tower are some of the tallest in the world, and each 76th-floor stall has its own view of the Seattle skyline. Why It’s Unique: “The bathroom can really be an adventure,” says Barbara Fiume, a designer for New York Kitchen and Bath.
Every facility is thinking, “What’s going to be my pop? There’s no more cold, bland look as your only possibility dealing with the commercial or public bathroom.” Aside from the stunning view, each stall has marble floors, marble counters and solid brass fixtures and contains its own sink.
Although the bathroom is technically women-only (Columbia Tower likes to think of the restroom as a “tranquil escape for any woman’s busy day”), it acquires frequent male visitors eager to check out the view.
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8. It’s a balancing act in Japan. Sometimes there’s a bar to hold on to, other times you just have to squat over it and hope the strength in your thighs will pull you through. Otherwise, when they’re placed on a shelf like here you can also use it to sit on. Thanks顔なし
10. Woah there. Check out all these buttons! One of the HostelBookers crew was in Seoul, Korea, a few weeks ago and told me that she pressed the wrong button and got a right fright, in a place you really don’t want a fright. She had to jump off the toilet and press the seat down to stop the jet of water. Thanks sellyourseoul.
21. You’ll find this sweet little stall at the Loetschenpass Hutte in Switzerland – it’s a welcome site for all the passing hikers and trekkers. Thanks Jonty Sewell.
Modern airplane toilets use a Teflon coated toilet bowl and extremely strong suction to pull waste to a holding tank. Toilets on boat work with a complex pump and valve system. Obviously, it is important to keep seawater out of the boat while disposing of waste. Submarine toilets are even more complicated because submarines are under enormous pressure. It takes complicated engineering to actually push the waste out of the submerged vessel. Toilets in space use vacuum pressure to function properly in the absence of gravity.
5. Lovely and spacious in here! This toilet is on the new double-deck commuter train DOSTO from Stadler – much nicer than any train toilet I’ve ever been in. Thanks Kecko.
20. You’ll be lucky to come across this toilet in the Sahara, it’s a bit, well, barren, out there. But there’s no need to do your business and cover it in sand, enjoy a bit of privacy in here instead. Thanks El Taberno.
15. Wow, looks like the smallest toilet in the world! Or is he just an exceptionally tall man? Do you know Sam Blackman?
1. A toilet in Laos. Remember to carry your own toilet paper with you. Thanks Two Roses.
17. Ah, festival toilets, my favourite. Even in good weather conditions they’re a risk, but these toilets at Glastonbury 2005 were all over the place. Would you dare to tinkle in one of these? Didn’t think so. Thanks fussyonion.
Thanks TheoGeo and everyone else for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.
Location /// Basel, Switzerland Background: This one-way glass stall looks like a mirror to an outsider, but completely transparent to an insider, leading to a nerve-wracking bathroom experience. Why It’s Unique: The bathroom was designed by artist Monica Bonvicini, who enjoys delving into public versus private life in her exhibitions.
This piece is entitled “Don’t Miss a Sec,” and was inspired by her viewers’ reluctance to use the bathroom during art shows, fearing they might miss out on something important. One-way mirrors work their magic by having one side painted with a very thin reflective coating, then strategically adjusting lighting.
For the outside to look like a mirror, it must be very bright so that the mirror’s surface has plenty to reflect. The inside must be kept dark so that light can’t pass through the glass. If the placement of light is switched, however, the walls become windows and your business becomes everyone’s business.
14. A one-style-fits-all toilet. This design in New Delhi enables you to sit and pass your business, or you can get your feet up and crouch, it’s up to you. Thanks wonker.
Location /// Milwaukee, WI Background: Nothing but rainwater flushes the toilets here, all electricity is solar-powered, soap is biodegradable and paper products are 100 percent recyclable. Even the paint on the wall is made out of organic compounds.
Why It’s Unique: Balis calls this bathroom “brilliant,” and a “win-win situation for everyone,” including the worms after a certain percentage of paper towels have been used, they’re soaked in water and fed to the composting critters living at the center.
The soil produced by the worms goes on to become a home for the 1000 plants the Ecology Center sows each year. Urinals don’t flush but are equipped with odor-proof oil that neutralizes undesirable smells before they can spread.
This strategy, among others, contributes to an annual savings of 450,000 gallons of water.
Location /// Fairfield, OH Background: What at first appears to be an outhouse gives way to a corridor, leading not into a dingy stall but to a large and well-maintained bathroom. Why It’s Unique: This fake-out bathroom is part of a large, 300,000-square-foot supermarket, making it one luxurious port-a-potty.
Balis views the addition of this bathroom as a good marketing strategy: “Even silly things make a statement. If you create something that’s interesting or a little over the top or a little silly, it’s going to get people’s attention and they’re going to want to check it out.
All press is good press. The more over-the-top the better.”
Location /// Chongqing, China Background: With 1000 toilets, 32,290 square feet, and four stories, this bathroom is the largest in the world. Why It’s Unique: Located on Yangrenjie (“Foreigners Street”), China hopes that its colossal Egyptian-themed restroom will bring tourism to the city.
Aside from its enormous size, the bathroom also features calm music, TVs and interestingly shaped urinals. Lu Xiaoqing, a tourism official, expects the bathrooms to be a hit among visitors: “After they use the bathroom they will be very, very happy.
Location /// International Space Station Background: With no gravity to ensure that water stays in the toilet bowl or to force waste down, NASA was forced to build pumps and harness airflow to create an effective and hygienic bathroom for astronauts.
Why It’s Unique: Because the entire system relies on air, creating a tight seal between the user and the toilet bowl is essential. Foot straps and pivoting bars anchor the astronauts to the ground, and an intricate network of tubes, pipes and ducts handles the waste.
Far removed from water treatment plants, the ISS must treat waste on its own and actually converts a large percentage into potable water. A hose-suction option is also available in lieu of the main toilet bowl.
6. A chance to hone your target practice skills in Reykjavik, Iceland. Anyone know who the lucky guys are? Thanks, Neate photos.
Location /// Milan, Italy Background: Part of an A-list restaurant simply named “Gold,” this opulent bathroom has been host to several stars such as Giselle, Kylie Minogue and Paris Hilton. Why It’s Unique: “It’s the little luxuries we allow ourselves that probably come into play in the bathroom more than anywhere else,” Balis says.
Indeed, the bathroom is luxurious, with golden bamboo lining the walls, giant mirrors and marble counters; Dolce and Gabbana stays true to its high-end name. The clincher is the constant loop of Goldfinger playing inside every golden stall on plasma screens.
There’s no doubt you’ll come across some weird toilets when you’re travelling the world. It’s always fun when you find a bar, restaurant, train, festival, house, desert or other, with a unique and interesting toilet in… sometimes you just can’t help but take a photo to mark the moment.
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18. Wow, these toilets in Qatar look swish. Being surrounded by lavender I’m sure they don’t smell too bad either. Thanks SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget.
While western style, sit-down toilets are the norm in most parts of Latin America, disposing of toilet paper in the toilet is not allowed. The plumbing systems of most Latin American cities and towns simply cannot process toilet paper. Flushing toilet paper will result in backups and clogs. Most households keep a trashcan beside the toilet for used toilet paper disposal. Even so cosmopolitan a city as Rio de Janeiro has significant plumbing issues. Much of Rio de Janeiro’s sewage flows into Guanabara Bay without any treatment, causing severe health concerns for the sailors who will be participating in the 2016 Olympics hosted by Rio de Janeiro.
Japan deserves its own section because Japanese toilets are some of the most sophisticated toilets in the world. These highly developed toilets feature heated seats, a bidet function, and a dryer function. No hands, toilet paper, or wipes are needed. It is not surprising that the Japanese have created the most inventive and sanitary toilets in the world; the Japanese have a history of being at the forefront of waste sanitation. Since 300 BCE, Japanese settlements have had sewer systems. Feudal Edo, now Tokyo, had an elaborate system to manage human waste and use it as fertilizer. While the traditional squat toilet was once the most common toilet in Japan, today less then 10% of the toilets in Japan are squat toilets and over 80% of Japanese people have combination bidet/western style toilets in their homes.
Location /// McMurdo Station, Central West Antarctica Background: In a place where humans attempt to make no environmental impact, waste must be handled carefully. Why It’s Unique: Normally, people in Antarctica walk around with bottles for collecting urine, and then empty the day’s contents into a bigger drum called a “U drum.
” Outhouses are for solid waste only, and contain a five-gallon plastic bucket lined with a plastic bag. After the bucket’s been filled, it’s sealed, placed on a pallet, and shipped off. Arctic outhouses are said to be mostly aroma-free, and the sturdily built units make for a temporary respite from cold and wind.
Location /// Antarctica Background: This urinal was constructed just 350 meters from the geographic South Pole, and drifts 10 meters closer to the pole every year. Now that’s an impressive piece of plumbing.
Why It’s Unique: Chris Curtis, the photographer of this picture, says that this urinal “marks an elusive destination and goal that was not able to even be reached until the early 1900s and carries with it the suffering and the loss of life of several explorers; and one that is at a place that is not only off the beaten path but literally ‘miles from nowhere’ .
.. in fact, no other urinal in the world or even space can compete with the efforts and loss of life that went into [this fixture’s] eventual permanence at the South Pole. What it may lack in beauty it more than makes up for in dignity.
” Hear, hear.
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24. Hundertwasser, the guy who created these toilets in Kawakawa, New Zealand, says that the toilet is a place of meditation and the decor and lines in there should reflect that. His vision has led to these wicked public toilets – they’re pretty cool from the outside too. Thanks Πichael C.
11. Errrm, peeing into a mouth – slightly odd, but we needn’t go into whether it’s right or not. It’s just a good bit of nice, clean fun in the B52 club in Bucharest. Thanks ckaroli.
Other then in the hotels catering to westerners, the majority of China has squat toilets. The squatting position naturally releases pelvic muscles, and some say that it is an easier and healthier way to eliminate waste, especially for people with digestive problems. Public toilets in China often have no walls or doors. Chinese toilets also lack toilet paper. Some public toilets have an attendant who charges for toilet use and sells toilet paper. Most people bring their own toilet paper and dispose of it in trash cans, not in the toilet. Some Chinese toilets are not hooked up to a municipal sewer system. These toilets are just holes above a pit that gets emptied, sometimes irregularly. In some place in the Chinese countryside, the outhouse is located over a pigsty, though the sty toilet has been discouraged by Chinese officials in recent years. Chinese officials are raising the standards of Chinese public toilets as a result of complaints from tourists.
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Location /// Various Background: Occupying a mere 4.3 square feet, this “Swiss Army Knife Bathroom” takes space conservation to a whole new level, packing a toilet, sink, cistern, two storage units and two shower heads into one compact system.
Why It’s Unique: Named for its resemblance to the spinal cord, the bathroom’s modules all connect to a central axis. Everything feeds from the top of the structure, which attaches to the ceiling. Users have the option of directing the waste pipes downward through a hole in the floor, or into the wall through a hole at the back of the toilet.
To enable shower drainage, the Vertebrae must be installed in a sealed wet room with adequate slope to the floor, according to the brochure. “Real estate is priceless in the bathroom,” says Judith Balis, an interior designer with experience constructing restrooms.
Whether people have access to a toilet and what kind of toilet they use can say much about their life and history. Toilets around the world range from non-existent to primitive to basic to something resembling a science fiction film. What toilets people use also largely depends on what municipal plumbing is available. It is fascinating that there are still millions of people eliminating in the wilderness or even in streets while others are using some of the most advanced plumbing, electrical, an computer technology available to power their home toilet. You can see the history of the toilet just by looking around the globe.
Location /// Various Background: Taking “streamlined” to a whole new level, these combined-function Ebb designs make for a modern, almost futuristic bathroom. Why It’s Unique: Balis calls the Ebb bathroom “fabulous, both visually and functionally.
” The main building material for the fixtures in this bathroom, which was designed by UsTogether, a British and Irish group, is LG HI-MACS, a natural acrylic stone made out of aluminum hydroxide. The material improves impact strength, heat and scratch resistance, visual homogeneity, and thermoplastic moldability over mainstay bathroom materials such as marble, granite and glass.
13. Ok, so it’s a piece of art, but ‘Water Closet Palace Hotel’ is still a pretty cool toilet from around the world. Venice, to be precise. Thanks Son of Groucho.
Location /// Various Background: This modern bathroom conceals a washbasin, toilet and shower tray beneath folding wooden shelves and benches, enabling a sleek transformation from bathroom to multipurpose room.
Why It’s Unique: Though the designers say the wooden coverups add elegance, Balis says they’re simply unnecessary. “You can put the most beautiful shade of lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You’re really not fooling anyone.
” Purportedly, the bathroom could be installed on one wall of a larger room (such as a living room) or in a very small space so as to enable a more flexible house design process without sacrificing sophistication.
Location /// Various Background: A bold move to hamper alcohol-induced nighttime public urination, the semi-permanent Urilift Pop-Up Urinal emerges at 10 pm and disappears at 3 am, coinciding with prime bar-hopping hours.
Why It’s Unique: These misdemeanor-fighting urinals cost $70,000 each; the unit consists of three adjoining 6-foot-tall stalls. The urinals connect to main water lines in order to flush away waste, and pipes lead directly into the underground sewage system.
The alcoves lack much privacy (there are no doors), but users don’t seem to take issue with that triviality. The toilets recede into the ground during the day in order to avoid obstructing traffic, and police are pleased with the installments so far, noting a reduction in arrests, fines and aggressive behavior following the installation.
19. These sail-thru toilets in Halong Bay, Vietnam, are perfect for those on the water. No need to park up the boat and leave it to find somewhere on land, you can just shimmy out of your boat here and pop in. Thanks zabaraorg.
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23. This ‘pissoir’ in Kreuzberg, Berlin, looks like a lovely place to retreat to if you’re caught short wandering the streets, almost elegant in fact. Thanks sludgeulper.
I’ve scoured the world for the best pictures of the weirdest toilets. Although, what’s weird to me, sat here in my London office with a sit down western-style flushing toilet down the corridor, might be the most normal toilet in the world to you out there, squatting over your long drop. Either way, here are some cool toilets from around the world…
Location /// Akashi, Japan Background: Like many beach-side bathrooms, the Mumin Papa Cafe is decorated with deep-sea creatures. But the live three-wall aquarium enveloping the stall one-ups standard wallpaper by a large margin.
Why It’s Unique: The underwater restroom cost $270,000 to build and is ladies-only, except for the giant sea turtle swimming around. The surrounding aquarium was designed to mimic the feeling of relieving yourself while swimming in the ocean.
Found any unique toilets on your travels? Let us know about them, or post some pictures if you can, in our comments…
3. A toilet in a Ukranian orphanage. “Many children share these two toilets, which are simply holes above a cesspit. That’s not unusual at rural Ukrainian orphanages. They are outdoors in a brick hut, so it would be very cold and dark in winter,” says marktristan.
25. Now, these are some beautiful urinals to finish with. Unfortunately, I don’t know where in the world they are, but somewhere out there are three tubas lined up waiting for you to pee in them. Do let me know if you ever find them. Thanks A.Schauervilla.
7. Not sure if this graffiti in Zurich has been purposely scrawled on to look cool, or whether it is actually cool – the gleaming white urinals make it look a little suspect… Either way, makes for a more exciting trip to the urinals for the boys. Thanks paalia.
Location /// Beijing, China Background: The 15-ton, $100,000 public bathroom in Zhong GuanVillage Plaza may be the safest in the world. Why It’s Unique: Immune even to TNT explosives detonated from within, this bunker of a bathroom is part of a string of anti-terrorism products debuted in China after 9/11.
For the Chinese, the bathroom isn’t much of a draw. Originally, usage instructions posted outside were in only English and French, but even after adding a Chinese translation in 2006, the toilet remains unpopular.
4. This is a Urine Diversion Toilet in Malawi. There are now many projects to try and get these into every village. Thanks Sustainable Sanitation.
What is commonly referred to as the “Middle East” in the United States and Europe encompasses a huge region with widely varied social practices and ethnic groups. While some places have western style sit down/flush toilets, the most common style of toilets in the Middle East is the squat toilet. A squat toilet is also known as a “Turkish Toilet”. Squat toilets consist of a toilet bowel or pan that is at floor level. The toilet may have a water cistern to flush with or may have a bucket of water. Instead of toilet paper, most people in Middle Eastern countries use water to clean themselves after using the toilet. There will either be a spray hose or bucket provided for this purpose. Interesting Fact: In the last 20 years, Dubai has become one of the most glamorous international destinations with extravagant hotels, malls, and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Until recently, many building actually trucked their sewage away because the buildings were not hooked up to the municipal system and the municipal system was could not handle the volume of waste. Dubai has since invested in waste management infrastructure and most building are hooked up to the municipal sewage system.
In Northern Africa, toilets are follow the western style sit down toilet. On the other hand most African countries use squat toilets. In sub-Saharan Africa, many people in rural areas lack any toilet facilities whatsoever. People must go outdoors, which causes many sanitation issues. What toilets exist in these areas are often pits. Again, hotels and establishments catering to foreigners will often have western style sit down toilets.
All of Western Europe uses typical American/Western style toilets, though older toilets might have a pull cord instead of a handle. You’ll often see squat toilets in Greece, Romania, and Turkey. If you are anywhere in the former USSR or south eastern Europe, toilet paper goes in a trash can, not the toilet. While a European toilet is the same as the standard porcelain American toilet, European bathrooms often feature an extra fixture: the bidet. The bidet was invented in France sometime in the late 1600s. Today, bidets are common plumbing fixtures in Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese homes.
22. Wow, these toilets in China look kind of mystical – like they’re from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I’d have no qualms about using these, in fact I’d be quite excited. Thanks hellomatt.
Location /// Lake Powell, UT/AZ Background: Out of concern over lake-goers using the open water as a bathroom instead of trekking to shore, some caretakers of lakes are opting to install floating restrooms in order to protect the water and land from contamination.
Why It’s Unique: Besides expense (a lake bathroom can cost upwards of $100,000 to install), unsightliness is the biggest obstacle to be surmounted when building a lake-friendly bathroom. One of the first floating bathrooms was installed in California’s Lake Natoma, and lived a very short life after a multitude of complaints mandated its removal.
Balis agrees: “I understand the need for keeping human waste and pollution down in our national parks, but this takes it a bit too far and detracts from the beauty of the very environment we are trying to protect.
Location /// New York City Background: The bar’s bathroom doors use liquid crystals to selectively turn opaque when the customer enters and closes the stall. Why It’s Unique: The crystal innovation in this stall is called Privacy Glass, which harnesses light diffusion in order to create privacy while still allowing light to enter.
The sheet of liquid crystal is sandwiched between two normal panes of glass, and the molecular array of the crystals is naturally random enough to disperse light, creating privacy. But when voltage is applied to the sheet, the crystals arrange themselves into a neat parallel formation that permits the passage of light, making the bathroom door transparent.
The need to use the bathroom to relieve oneself is universal, but toilets and bathrooms can be very different around the world. Hygiene routines, cleanliness standards, plumbing systems, and sanitation systems very widely from one place to another. A Japanese bathroom is quite different from a washroom in Yemen and a toilet in China is likely to operate differently then a French toilet. While most resorts and hotels that cater to American and Europeans will have standard flushing toilets with toilet paper, local toilets can be quite different. Let’s explore toilets around the world!
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16. I’m not sure why this toilet says ‘No’ all over it. I’m guessing you’re not allowed to stand on the seat in Baja, Mexico. Thanks indigoprime.
Location /// Milwaukee, WI Background: This spy-themed restaurant involves passwords, hidden rooms and disappearing ink—and the theme continues on into its bathroom. To enter, users must navigate through a series of complicated mazes and avoid a trick door.
Why It’s Unique: “The bathrooms in restaurants are statement pieces,” Balis says. Ever since Safe House opened in 1966, it has been using every aspect of the restaurant under its control to advance the secret-agent atmosphere.
The harrowing journey to the bathroom serves as another adventurous addition, at least to those willing to endure a 15-minute sojourn from table to toilet.