Friday, February 23, 2024

Shigeru Ban’s transparent public toilets turn opaque when occupied

In the coming months, Japan will receive very special public bathrooms at 17 locations in Shibuya, Tokyo. These public toilets are being designed by 16 leading creators and will use advanced design to make them accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability, to demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society.

Renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has already completed two public toilets, located in the city’s Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park, both in Yoyogi Park in the Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo, as part of the project THE TOKYO TOILET. These are one of the most talked-about designs, as they are transparent when not in use, and turn opaque when occupied.

The glass becomes opaque when locked
The glass becomes opaque when locked.

The Pritzker Prize-winning architect designed the toilets with two key points in mind – cleanliness, and security. These are two concerns with public toilets, especially those located in parks.

Using the latest, state-of-the-art technology, the exterior glass turns opaque when the door is locked. This allows users to check the cleanliness of the bathroom and whether anyone is using the toilet from the outside, as the glass exterior will be transparent if the bathroom is empty. At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern.

Glass exterior reveals the facility is empty, making it safe for use at night
Glass exterior reveals the facility is empty, making it safe for use at night.

The two transparent toilets have three cubicles, each – consisting of women’s, men’s bathrooms, and user-accessible facilities – and transparent glass in different colors, such as blue, yellow, or pink. The bathrooms are configured so that voltage must be applied to make the glass transparent, then when someone locks the door, the electrical supply is cut, and it goes back to its default opaque state.

THE TOKYO TOILET project is a Nippon Foundation program aimed at renovating 17 public toilets in Shibuya, by 16 leading creators, in cooperation with the Shibuya city government. The toilets are being made available for use from August 5, and 17 planned bathrooms in total are expected to be completed by the spring of 2021.

The toilets are being built by Daiwa House Industry Co. Ltd., with Toto Ltd., advising on toilet design and equipment. In addition to construction, the ever-important maintenance of the facilities will be carried out under a three-party agreement between the Nippon Foundation, the Shibuya city government, and the Shibuya City Tourism Association.