It is often seen that we as architects focus on big and dominant factors which sometimes cause the downfall or failure of focus on small things. But few architects are now focusing on minute aspects and are creating wonders all around. and architecture hold the power to reincarnate anything. Mies van der Rohe has said, “God is in details.” One such phenomenal architect is Shigeru Ban. Shigeru Ban, originally from is well known for his creative work with paper and recycled cardboard tubes used for house disaster victims. He is profiled by Time magazine, their 21st-century innovators in the field of architecture and design. One of the major contributions of Shigeru Ban is the toilets created by him with the feature of an exterior glass that turns opaque when locked.
This was an important step towards public health and sanitation. Public toilets are mandatory to be located at particular distances all over and are present but the question of hygiene has always been there. People always face the dilemma of whether to visit the toilet or to not. This dilemma is due to two factors- cleanliness and security. It is now for we architects to consider the matter. Architect Shigeru Ban is the major and lead personal here and has created these toilets.
Shigeru Ban made his entry in toilet design via his module of three toilets placed simultaneously with one for male, other for female and the third is the accessible facility bathroom. Shigeru developed these toilets based on two principles- Cleanliness and Security. If you have given the task of designing and building public toilets it is for you to determine the major issues prevailing and to destroy them. Here I must say, Shigeru Ban has done an exemplary job. People often avoid going into any toilet or washroom which is not well maintained and clean. Coming to security, if the toilet is pre-occupied these glasses of the toilets turn opaque indicating the toilet being used. It is due to this feature that before even entering the toilet one gets to know whether the toilets are clean or not. This facilitates transparency. This feature one may decline its importance during the day-light but imagine walking all alone in the place and it is always scary to visit public washrooms in the dark but here it is nothing to worry about because when the toilets are vacant the glass is transparent assuring maximum safety and security, fascinating isn’t it?
These toilet modules are presently situated at two places in Tokyo, Japan – yo yogi fukamachi mini-park and the Haru-no-Ogawa community park. Another interesting fact about these toilets is that these are located in the parks in Tokyo with the beautiful hues used on the glasses and these hues are so appropriate that they seem to merge in the ambiance of the parks and during the night these act or reflect as lamps, due to the glass and its hues. Quite astonishing for a toilet, isn’t it? It is perfectly suited for the location.
Another major issue covered via these toilets is gender binary. These toilets have three compartments, as told earlier and these toilets are fully open for people with any gender, caste, disability, or anything. It is quite high time for us to look beyond everything and humans are humans which I suppose is enough. The stalls being transparent, one can easily see what facilities one can get inside that toilet and then enter it.
These Ban’s toilets with the Nippon foundation aim to eradicate all social constraints and barriers and aim to create proper toilets with full security and cleanliness with a delightful and optimistic atmosphere for the users.
We are in that phase right now where the people, the public are willing to accept nothing but the best. So we rightfully have to provide the best and settle for nothing less. Toilets are often looked up to as the minute and tiny elements of design, yes! The services part of it is often taken care of but it is a rare phenomenon that the aesthetic part is taken care of which we can find in Shigeru Ban’s design. The Public’s point of view is studied and the problems and issues are learned and significantly addressed.
This I would say is the ideal and perfect example of designing and adding to the spaces. There is no small element or there is no such space that cannot be made aesthetically pleasant. This initiative teaches us to focus on the problems and try to eradicate them from the roots and try to add luxury to the design. Definitely a futuristic idea with all possible facilities and luxuries!