A public toilet, according to the architects

FAT's proposal for a public toilet

To celebrate their 175 anniversary, the (Royal Institute of British Architects) together with BBC’s Radio 4 called architects to re think the public toilet, addressing the lack of a decent  toilet provision.

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, public toilet provision was a matter of civic pride; British public toilets were the best in the world. Local authorities would compete to create beautiful facilities which demonstrated the latest developments in sanitary engineering and architecture. This project aims to revive that tradition, and to position the public loo once again as a centerpiece for urban regeneration and to ultimately improve people’s lives.

The result? Judge by yourself. My favorite is FAT’s, but that´s just because I fall for everything they do.

All the toilets and their description´s after the break:



The state of the everyday “public convenience” effects all of us, whenever we are out and about, whatever our age or background. So, in order to define a brief, 100 people* were asked what they thought about public loos, their concerns and aspirations…and this is what the survey said:

75% of people want a ‘hands-free’ toilet experience
70% of people are willing to spend up to 20p on the use of a high quality public toilet – and in fact many people just “go private” to access a toilet making use of pubs, bars, cafés, hotels
65% of people want a more hygienic environment than public toilets currently offer.

We combined this desire for cleanliness and quality with putting beauty back on to our streets. So our WC is elevated to the status of a well-loved civic monument – as a series of public sculptures, a celebration of sanitation. Offering a bespoke sense of place rather than a standardised solution, the toilets incorporate Fountains, perhaps devoted to mythical river gods, and offer the city both art and practicality. Along with statuary and sculpture, each would be designed with a free-flowing drinking and handwash fountain, generous informal seating as well as the promise of best-maintained toilets in the western world, supported of hourly visits from a new breed of urban patrol: the Toilet Wardens.

Inside each toilet is a “touch free experience”, where you -

1. Pay by credit card/cash/mobile/SMS – just like parking meters
2. Enter using automatically opening doors, auto lock remotely, use auto flush and hands-free taps to avoid touching.
3. Rather than using a full bleach-steam clean like today’s pod toilets (which scare users lest they too become steam-cleaned…), we propose simple self cleaning toilet seats, with sensors that recognise when immediate maintenance is needed.
4. And ever mindful of waste…water from the drinking fountains can be recycled to flush WC cisterns and to clean the surrounding pavements, and the grey water from the wash hand basin itself can be used to irrigate local trees and parks, and simple photovoltaic cells would power the automatic sensors and sign.

In essence, these micro-monuments would offer the promise of personal hygiene on an infrastructural scale.

* vox pox survey taken The Strand, London, Tuesday 21st July 2009.

Eva Jiricna Architects


This system of public toilets could be treated as a ready made industrial product which is delivered straight from the manufacturer and ‘plugged’ into it’s specific location. The following components are proposed which could be assembled according to varying priorities around one service point: standard WC; urinal unit; disabled people’s unit; parent & baby unit.

There is also the option of provision for undercover seating, advertisements, video projection, vending machines etc.

The service point in the centre is to accommodate connection to local sewer or septic tank, with ventilation/heating and one could consider varying options – depending on the situation of the unit – solar batteries, wind turbine, light sculpture and so on.

The construction is a pre-fabricated pod with a dual skin arrangement insulated in the middle, incorporating automatic flush, lighting, alarm. When in use the units could glow or even music. They could be connected to cable or other TV agencies, as well as a direct link to the emergency services. The materials could vary, perhaps GRP or GRC could be the basic option. The doors would operate like a VW van, opening outwards and sideways.



Our proposal is for a toilet housed in a piece of public art, in this case a giant sculptural Hercules’ head in the classical style lying on the ground. It can be entered through a door, which we have based on the door of no.10 Downing Street. Listeners/viewers may infer what they like from the symbolism of the door, but the sculpture itself is conceived as a humorous antidote to the miserable and terrifying concrete Tardis that are the unfortunate mainstay of our miserly public toilet provision. It is hoped that Hercules will inspire those who enter to conjure up whatever strength they require to complete their transactions within. Inside will be a view of the sky through an oculus in Hercules’ truncated neck.

The design suggests the gendering of public toilets, something we are sure many women especially would welcome. Perhaps the ladies could take the form of a sculptural head representing Athena, Goddess of wisdom, warfare, strategy, handicrafts and reason, or Aphrodite, Goddess of love, lust and beauty.

Robert Adams Architects


Like all public fixtures on our streets, practical functions should be an opportunity for fine design. The classical lavatory is a modern facility with the best standards and access and it is also a pavilion in the tradition of the old telephone box and London’s taxi drivers’ shelters. It is made of pressed metal, would be prefabricated in parts and economical to make in numbers. It can be a male, female and disabled WC and can be combined to incorporate all three. The circular form can fit in just about anywhere. It can be discretely coloured to blend into the background or brightly coloured to act as striking feature. Its classical form would be suitable for new and historical areas and rather than being an unfortunate necessity would be an interesting ornament.

Will Alsop


Open Loo (not so bog standard)

A public lavatory should feel fresh and clean and a lot of our perception of cleanliness is through smell. So I propose a loo that lifts up to let you in, thereby remaining open and well-ventilated when not in use. The toilet furniture would be made from concrete, so becoming part of the street, wheras the object which encloses it would be lightweight, sculptural and well-lit. This loo would contribute to the street in its presence and be a pleasure to use.

Cite: Basulto, David. "A public toilet, according to the architects" 17 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=32344>

    FAT – brilliant – original, playful, exciting

    the rest – shockingly bad. especially the Robert Adam design.. what did they do? go out and take a photo of an existing public toilet and photohop it into a park? awful. its the sort of toilet prince charles would love.

  • arch critic

    alsop’s looks “O.K.”

    • rafael reyes

      well, it looks odd but that was a very unique way of thinking. the combination of art and architecture was just great.i also like the delivery it comes with a bit strangeness in its figure.that is so hardcore!!!

  • dv.A

    Congratulations FAT!

  • kingmu

    As I’m looking at all these… I think I have to pee.

    • Bryan

      dude those are nice. just don’t want ppl smelling me in there as they past bye

      • hector

        lol i bet that u must really smell then…

  • theChavacano

    It would be an honor to pee in one of those :)

  • http://www.twitter.com/tgphipps Terry Glenn Phipps

    And so the RIBA’s search for relevance goes on.

  • Howard Roark

    Not into the FAT submission in the slightest.

  • Jon

    I love FAT’s proposal, it speaks alot to their design aesthetic

    That is to say over conceptualized and form driven BULL ****

    • Jon

      Great job guys !!!
      No do something for the china expo, you have the talent and skill now to make millions !!!!

  • Khalid

    non of them is nice!!!

  • rl

    While I do like FAT’s proposal, it looks like it must have taken about two minutes in photoshop to put together.

    • jiri

      May be. But it doesn’t matter.

    • Partick Bateman

      yeah, they should really have rendered the whole thing in MAX, modeled the surrounding buildings and added holographic people that shout the idea at the viewer just to make it clear for anyone who cant understand what their proposal is.

      • rl

        hyperbole much? i get and appreciate their ‘concept’, but wish they would show something a little more concrete and convincing. like, architecture instead of photo editing 101 tutorial.

  • pontus

    fat´s proposal looks like the flying circus intro.

  • http://studiomarchitecto.wordpress.com marc

    “hands-free” eh?

  • mathias

    welcome back post modernism!

  • http://suckerpunchdaily.com/info.html Ultra man

    Yes the return of the return of POMO…POstPOSt-Modern…
    meaning the return of architecture for architects, gimmicky private jokes for middle class bored decadent architect. No wonder why Zaha is so scandalous in decadent London.

  • Snowy

    Does anyone get the feeling they’re looking at an art & design foundation exhibition? All very conceptual & interesting, but how does it fit in the real world. Sorry I know I’m being very dull, don’t get me wrong I loved my foundation & would recommend doing it to anyone, but there is a real world with real people who we as designers have to engage with! Fanciful projects like this just alienate them & make it twice as hard for those of us who want a dialogue with the people not a battle.

    ‘and step away from the soap box snowy’

  • Pingback: links for 2009-08-21 » deea // supermagnet

  • Pingback: NinjaFuel | Readings for the Urban Ninja (24/08/09) | Archi-Ninja

  • teddy

    DSDHA and FAT’s proposals really aren’t that different at the aesthetic level. There is space for luxury and whimsy in public projects–and pairing with public art is always a good idea. We don’t need to defecate on Number 10, but why shouldn’t we go number 1 or 2 inside Poseidon or Proserpina? Or perhaps John Lennon, William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, or David Bowie???


    ko hieu gi het !

  • v_n a

    FAT’s prosal seems much too big a block for a toilet, I wonder whether it fits the scale for the square
    er.. A toilet within the sculputure to be the visual center of the square?