The Tokyo Toilet by Shigeru Ban Architects

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Shigeru Ban Architects have designed two public toilets for The Tokyo Toilet project with transparent glass walls that become opaque when they are occupied

Architect Shigeru Ban was born in 1957 in Tokyo, Japan. He established Shigeru Ban Architects in 1985 and founded the NGO Voluntary Architects Network (VAN, now an NPO) in 1995. Besides designing houses and museums, Ban is also involved in disaster relief activities. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the Pritzker Prize (2014), the Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2014), and the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice (2017).

The two transparent toilet blocks have been designed by Architect Ban as a part of The Tokyo Toilet Project. Japan is known as one of the cleanest countries in the world, and even public toilets have a higher standard of hygiene than in much of the rest of the world. However, the use of public toilets in Japan is limited because of stereotypes that they are dark, dirty, smelly, and scary.

In cooperation with the Shibuya City government, The Tokyo Toilet project has renovated 17 public toilets in Shibuya to make them accessible for everyone regardless of gender, age, or disability. The toilets were designed by 16 globally recognized architects and designers, who are using their design and creative skills to address social issues. The 17th toilet was completed and opened to the public in March 2023. The Tokyo Toilet project is managed by the non-profit Nippon Foundation.

Built in the city’s Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park and the Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park, the pair of restrooms feature tinted-glass walls to enable those approaching to easily check whether they are in use or not. The see-through quality of the toilets was selected to reassure users that the facilities are clean without them having to enter the toilet block first to check. The tinted exterior glass walls become opaque once the occupant has entered and locked the door.

Describing the idea behind the project, Architect Shigeru Ban says “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. Using the latest technology, the exterior glass turns opaque when locked. This allows users to check the cleanliness and whether anyone is using the toilet from the outside. At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern.”

The Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park toilets have been made with green and blue glass walls to complement the trees that surround them. The new buildings replace two dated public toilets in a pair of small parks near the large Yoyogi Park in Shibuya. They comprise three separate cubicles – male, female and accessible toilet, which are divided by mirrored walls.

Ban designed the colourful amenities as part of the Tokyo Toilet project. Other participating designers and architects include Kengo Kuma, Marc Newson and Sou Fujimoto, as well as fellow Pritzker Prize-winners Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Fumihiko Maki.

Content from various internet resources Photographs by The Nippon Foundation

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