The toilets are only see-through when unoccupied
Despite appearances, these translucent public toilets aren’t made to be voyeuristic.
The Tokyo Toilet Project just cut the tape on newly installed restrooms at two parks in Tokyo’s Shibuya neighborhood this month. The colored-glass washrooms are cleverly designed to be transparent when unoccupied — so potential users can confirm they’re empty and clean — but turn opaque once the door is locked internally.
“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park. The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside,” wrote the restroom’s creator, Pritzker prize-winning architect and Tokyo native Shigeru Ban, on the Toilet Project’s website.
As a bonus, the bathrooms also put on quite the show: “At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern,” Ban wrote.
In addition to Ban’s installation, the Toilet Project has commissioned 15 other creators to build innovative fresh designs for public washrooms around the city. One creator’s proposal describes an “ambiguous space” consisting of 15 randomly combined concrete walls, with two gendered and one all-gender toilet hidden in the spaces between them — not ideal for those moments when you just gotta go, but aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.
Another proposal is purportedly inspired by the traditional Japanese decorative wrapping method of Origata, and involves a bright red building with individual, angular toilet entrances. A third, called the “Squid Toilet,” is equipped with a unique, “cheerful” roof.
While Japan has an international reputation for cleanliness, locals maintain a stigma for public toilets, and the facilities are underused as a result, wrote the nonprofit that launched the Tokyo Toilet Project. By getting known designers to reimagine the space, the nonprofit hopes it can “dispel these misconceptions,” that public toilets are “dark, dirty, smelly and scary.”
By Hannah Frishberg