Tokyo’s ‘Octopus Park’, named so for its Octopus shaped slide, is a children’s playground in Tokyo. And this park has recently been graced by a Public Restroom designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki.
The Tokyo Toilet Project is an attempt to upgrade toilets in the Shibuya District of downtown Tokyo, headed by the Nippon Foundation, a non-profit organisation. The Ebisu East Side Park, or the Octopus Park as the locals affectionately call it, is a popular neighbourhood park and children’s playground surrounded with dense tree cover and greenery. The toilet constructed aims to cater to not only kids in the park and vicinage areas but also the people travelling to work and other passers-by who might need to use the restroom in the day.
“We wanted this facility to function not only as a public restroom but as a public space that serves as a park pavilion equipped with a rest area,” says Tatsutomo Hasegawa, an associate at the Fumihiko’s firm Maki and Associates.
Maki and Associates studied the potential users of the structure, designing to accommodate their basic comfort needs as well as conforming the structure to relate to the playground and park that forms the site of construction.
“The cheerful roof that integrates the different sections promotes ventilation and natural light, creating a bright and clean environment while giving the facility a unique appearance similar to playground equipment.”
White walls, frosted glass and a curvy, dynamic roof enclose four small blocks that make up the new restroom. Each block in this arrangement houses separate functions and they are placed so as to create a small courtyard in the middle. A tree is planted in this courtyard adding to the zen ambience of the structure.
The courtyard dissembles and segregates what would have become a large mass, into a light, comfortable building. The white walls enunciate a sense of clean and pristine sobriety while the frosted glass complements the spaces by adding translucency to the restroom.
One of the four blocks consists of an accessible toilet with the toilet seat built into the walls. The other two blocks are the male and female toilets with provisions for wash attached on the outside, covered by the roof. The fourth block comprises a washing facility. This block is translucent, enclosed by the frosted glass, promoting partial visibility.
The structure and its materials bring a very light and bright element into the park and do not impose their presence heavily. The firm approached the project with the intent of crafting a safe but playful public space for all kinds of users. The blocks and their decentralised layout allow for good sightlines throughout the spaces.
The thin roof capping the structures enable ample light and ventilation while also forming fun, sinuous, and gentle curves. The interiors of the restroom hence, are brightly lit and radiant, integrating with the white walls perfectly. The form of the roof also corresponds with the shape and flow of the octopus slide residing in the park.
The entrance to the restroom has a bench built into a wall. This is a provision for the people to rest and relax as kids play around in the park. This public toilet designed by Maki and Associates definitely delivers on the term ‘restroom’ by creating a safe and playful space for all kinds of users. This inclusive design corresponds to the goal set by Nippon Foundation to realise a society where all diversity is accepted and included, regardless of age, gender or disability.
“Ebisu East Park is also known as ‘Octopus Park’ because of its octopus playground equipment,” said Hasegawa. “We hope this new facility, the ‘Squid Toilet’, will become a popular addition to the park.”
Apart from Maki’s restroom, Shigeru Ban’s recent translucent public toilet and Nao Tamura’s Origata-inspired design are also products of the same Tokyo toilet movement. This restroom by Fumihiko Maki is one from a total of 17 toilets to be constructed across Tokyo as a part of this initiative. These toilets will see leading designers including Pritzker Prize-winners like Tadao Ando and Toyo Ito coming together to transform public toilets in the city.