We are facing a global sanitation crisis and public toilets are one of the pressing problems. According to the United Nations, 4.2 billion people live without safe sanitation and 893 million people have to relieve themselves in the open.
The Tokyo Toilet project is an initiative by the Nippon Foundation to build public toilets in 17 different locations in the district of Shibuya, Tokyo by 16 well-known creators. The toilets will be constructed by Daiwa House Industry Co.Ltd. and Toto Ltd. will advise on the sanitary fixtures and toilet layout. Their advance and thoughtful designs will make them accessible by everyone regardless of age, gender, or disability. The project aims to demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society that embraces diversity and to change the misconception that is associated with public toilets like they are dark, dirty, smelly, and scary due to which their usage is limited.
The list of creators includes Tadao Ando, Kengo Kuma, Shigeru Ban, Toyo Ito, and Sou Fujimoto among others. An interesting and unique public toilet is designed by Masamichi Katayama from Wonderwall, an interior design firm based in Tokyo. Located in Ebisu Park, a maze-like structure made of concrete walls is designed to blend in with the surrounding and stand unobtrusively in the park. “We kept in mind a facility that distances itself from architectural concepts and elements: an object that stands casually in the park as if it were playground equipment, benches, or trees.” says Masamichi Katayama.
Wonderwall calls it the ‘Modern Kawaya’, referencing it to the primitive Japanese huts of the early Jōmon period. Masamichi Katayama explains that “In Japan, the origin of toilets is Kawaya. Kawaya was a hut that stood over the river dating back to the Neolithic times of early Jōmon period (10,000 to 6,000 BCE). These huts were of primitive and simple designs, often made of hardened soil or pieces of wood bound together”. In trying to capture the ethos of Kawaya, the studio built an ‘ambiguous space’ by randomly placing 15 textured concrete walls in a maze-like arrangement with gaps between them which serve as discreet entrances to three different areas for men, women, and everyone. The idea was to make the structure look like both an object in space and a toilet. Wonderwall envisioned the structure as a ‘curious piece of playground equipment’ which is playful, welcoming, and one which the users can interact with. An interesting detail is the board-marked finish of the concrete walls which resembles the soil and wood construction of the traditional Kawaya. It also has a black, minimal signage at the entrance to demarcate the different areas i.e. men, women, and everyone.
Wonderwall’s public toilet has facilities for baby changing, elderly people, and expecting mothers. A total of seven public toilet facilities have already been made available for users in seven different locations. It includes the toilets designed by Masamichi Katayama, Shigeru Ban, Fumihiko Maki, Nao Tamura, Takenosuke Sakakura, and Tadao Ando. The remaining of the toilets are expected to be completed by the spring of 2021.