Although the design and layout of bathrooms we use nowadays date back millennia, they are still considered as one of the most difficult to design and renovate. During the earliest stages of planning a bathroom, there are plenty of rules of thumb to follow, especially since it involves a lot of association and “pre-planning” with plumbing, electrical circuits, angular or uniquely-shaped fittings, and small floor areas. We will explore the basics of bathroom plumbing and where to allocate each fixture to optimize the bathroom's layout, facilitating your DIY remodel project or creating the space from scratch.
Bathroom: The Latest Architecture and News
Over the years, interior design has evolved according to the needs that arise, but above all according to the experiences it seeks to evoke in the user. In the last two years we have witnessed a radical change and a special interest in this subject because the pandemic forced us to pay specific attention to the configuration of the places we inhabit. This brought about much more holistic designs that seek to address the wellbeing of the user, combining colours, sensory experiences, technology and natural elements that promote health.
If, on the one hand, bathrooms have a certain rigidity when we think about the layout and their spatial arrangement, it is in the floor and wall coverings that this logic is inverted. With the wide variety of models and patterns available on the market, ceramic tiles and porcelain tiles are often used to give quality and identity to space. At the same time, the ease of access to ceramic and porcelain tiles, as well as their ease of installation, end up conditioning our choices, making it difficult to think of other finishing possibilities for these areas.
Throughout the years, bathrooms have been viewed as purely functional spaces strictly programmed for hygiene and privacy. Becoming smaller and more practical, the utilitarian, space-saving shower stall has often been considered the norm, pushing the bathtub into obsolescence or as an additional luxury for those with extra space (and money). Recently, however, as lifestyle changes driven by the pandemic have placed wellness as a top priority, the notion of the bathroom as a sanctuary has really taken hold. Contemporary bathrooms have thus been reimagined, shifting towards open spaces of relaxation, comfort and recuperation. And tubs – with their inherent meditative nature – have returned to the spotlight.
Taking a good shower can be an extremely relaxing and pleasant experience. Far beyond the simple (and important) functions of removing dirt and sweat and balancing the bacteria present on the skin and body, the feeling of well-being that a bath provides can make us think better, come up with ideas to solve problems and relax our muscles. To make things even better, this experience can be enhanced through a well-designed space, with suitable materials, well thought out lighting, and components that provide a good waterflow.
Located somewhere between opacity and transparency, translucent surfaces allow rays of light to partially pass through them, creating a "blurred" aspect to what is seen on the other side. This is an effect widely used in art, as in the works of the Icelandic–Danish artist Olafur Eliason, for example, who works with optical illusions through light and colorful and transparent surfaces. But it is also admired by contemporary architects, such as the Japanese office SANAA, or European offices such as Barozzi / Veiga or Lacaton & Vassal, among many others.
In buildings, when using translucent surfaces with materials such as polycarbonate or glass, elements become visually lighter and highlight interiors or even the building's structure, without intruding on inhabitants' privacy. Chairs, lamps, pots: there are several everyday objects that use translucency for aesthetics and lightness. In the bathroom, however, this is not so common. Usually made of porcelain, the traditional pieces used in this space are opaque and at times are not so flexible to allow for a designer's vision.
The practice of frequenting public baths was common in civilizations such as the Greeks, Persians and Byzantines, but it was the Romans who popularized their use as places of socialization and purification. These bathrooms were communal and people sat side by side in a collective latrine. The modern bathroom, more similar to what we know today, began with Sir John Harington and his invention of the first flush toilet in 1596. Another crucial advance occurred with Alexander Cummings in 1775, which included a siphon within the toilet to retain gases and odors. But it was only when houses were equipped with running water and effective drainage in the second half of the nineteenth century that the modern private bathroom emerged: a bathroom, a sink and a bath place, which can be a shower or a bathtub. The basics have remained almost unchanged since then, with a few cultural variations in different parts of the world.
These days, the bathroom is a space that goes far beyond its function. With numerous options on the market, it can be designed with the most diverse aesthetics in mind, become a space for relaxation or a design statement in an interior design project.
As cities become denser and the pandemic continues to shape living and working patterns, people have become well aware that the space they inhabit greatly influences their physical and mental well-being. As a result, the interior design of homes has focused on promoting sensitivity, comfort and calmness as a way of escaping the uncertain outside world. As a safe space where we practically start and end each day, the modern bathroom has also adapted accordingly, taking on a key role as an environment dedicated to relaxation and self-care. Hence, what used to be a purely functional zone is now perceived as an energizing personal retreat and flexible living space that can even adopt other functions – from a gym to a private spa.
The bathrooms that we usually have in our homes are legacies of European colonization around the world. Its current form, however, dates back millennia and would not have been possible without investments and the evolution of basic sanitation.
The health of a population is directly related to the physical environment it inhabits, as stated by Hippocrates in his text “Ares, waters and places”, written during the 5th century BC, in which the Greek thinker known as the 'father of medicine', states that in order to properly investigate health and the cause of disease it is necessary to observe and understand the inhabited environment from the seasons, the wind, the water, its geographical position, the land and the landscape and also the habits of the people who live there. Each civilization has developed a way of dealing with what we understand by sanitation today, depending on its time and also on its geographical, cultural, political and economic context.
Cool lights, wall-to-wall tiles and trivial fixtures. Little by little, public bathrooms have changed this aesthetic and opted for more careful designs. Gone are the days when designs were focused only on functionality, accessibility and ease of maintenance and cleaning. Along with these essential qualities, a good bathroom project can also bring tranquility and show values that the space or the company wants to convey to its users. whether through finishes, lightning, or less material factors such as inclusivity, making users feel good is ultimately the goal of all environments, including bathrooms.
Although they are an integral and necessary space in residential architecture, the wide variety of design opportunities for bathrooms has often remained overlooked in favor of practicality. Historically programmed for privacy, the contemporary bathroom has been re-imagined for a greater sense of openness and comfort - finding a delicate balance between privacy and exposure is facilitated by design objects such as the tub.
Water scarcity will directly affect nearly 20% of the human population by 2025, according to several UN reports, and indirectly influence the rest of the planet’s inhabitants as well as economies and the whole ecosystems. Designing effective water management systems is an important process that encompasses the planning, developing, and managing of water resources, in terms of both water quantity and quality, across all water uses. It includes the institutions, infrastructure, incentives, and information systems that support and guide water management.
Unlike classical architecture, characterized by a series of rooms with very defined functions and spaces, the current architectural design seeks to integrate spaces to achieve high degrees of adaptability and flexibility. In this way, the boundaries of the enclosures are blurred and new solutions appear that are worth analyzing. In the case of bedrooms, bathrooms are often no longer a small and secluded adjoining room – instead, they are now integrated to form a multifunctional space that is subtly concealed. Just like Mies van der Rohe, who used to group services in strategic areas to create open floors, let's review some cases that have adopted the specific solution of the hidden bathroom just behind the bed.
An icon in architecture and design holds a certain degree of widespread recognition, admiration, and originality, whether it be a famous building, an artwork or a popular piece of furniture. However, it must also be capable of remaining relevant through the years and never go out of style, constantly attracting an audience without having to entirely reinvent itself. In an era dominated by social media and the need for instant gratification, the design industry has become more trend-driven than ever, creating products that die just as fast as they’re born. That is precisely where the value of timelessness lies; classic, high-quality, and long-lasting functional products will rarely become a thing of the past.
As an architectural project comes to its last phases, it is time to put together the smaller details in bathrooms and kitchens, which means choosing finishes for the walls and floors, as well as the countertops, and picking the right fittings and fixtures. These elements are essential for a well-designed space, regardless of the style.
When water runs down the drain or we flush it down the toilet, we usually don't care where it ends up. This is because with adequate basic sanitation, wastewater shouldn't be a concern. Yet, although humanity has already taken man to space and plans to colonize Mars, it continues to fail to provide basic living conditions for a large part of its population. A comprehensive study estimates that 48% of global wastewater production is released into the environment untreated. The UN, in turn, presents a much less encouraging figure, citing that 80% of the world's sewage is released without treatment. But returning to the question of the title, there are basically two destinations for sewage if it is not being released directly into the natural environment: it can be treated locally through septic tanks, or connected to a sewage treatment plant through the sewage network, eventually returning to nature after a series of treatment processes.