An airport prototype that reconceives the restroom as a semi-open agora-like precinct that is animated by three parallel activity zones, each dedicated to grooming, washing and eliminating.
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We chose the airport as a case study because it is a high volume, mixed-use public space where a diverse constituency spends extended periods of time and caters to their mental and physical needs while they wait—whether checking social media, eating or going to the bathroom.
Our scheme for the airport restroom takes as its point of departure the standard dimensions of a typical gender-segregated airport restroom. Our goal was to explore different ways that a wide range of embodied subjects could mix together in public space, based on the understanding that the seemingly commonplace and universal activities that we perform in restrooms are shaped by the convergence of biological, cultural and psychological factors.
Treating the toilet stall as a privacy unit allows us to take away the barrier that typically divides adjacent men’s and women’s rooms as well as the wall that separates them from the concourse. Instead we reconceive the public restroom as a semi-open agora-like precinct that is animated by three parallel activity zones dedicated to grooming, washing and eliminating.
Slip-resistant sheets of diamond plate, tile and rubber differentiate each of the three activity zones which are painted a different shade of blue for the visually impaired. After debating the merits of different color options, we chose blue because research indicates that it is soothing, associated with water, health and hygiene, and also a complementary background color for deaf signing because it contrasts with skin tones.
Immediately adjacent to the concourse, the grooming station features a smart mirror that disseminates information (flight arrival and departure times, weather, and retail) while users groom at a multi-level counter that serves people of different heights and abilities. Those who want privacy can retreat into curtained alcoves for breastfeeding, administering medical procedures such insulin injections, taking meditation, and engaging in private prayer.
In our proposal, washing occurs around a freestanding island inspired by the public fountains that activate Roman piazzas. The communal washing station meets the needs of adults, children and people in wheelchairs. Muslims men can use the trough at the base of the station to perform ritual ablutions for cleansing face, hands, arms and feet.
WASHING STATION: REMEDIATING PLANTER
Inset floor lights indicate the location of motion-activated faucets in the wall that allow water to flow into inclined splash planes placed at different ergonomic heights which is then collected and cleaned in a remediating planter before being recycled. The scent of plants and the ambient sounds of flowing water mask bodily sounds and odors.
Located at the back of the facility, the eliminating station consolidates rows of bathroom stalls that offer acoustic and visual privacy. They come in three sizes: standard, ambulatory and ADA-compliant. Two large caregiving rooms are equipped with toilet, sink, changing tables, and a shower that allows travelers to wash and change clothes, caregiving between people of different ages and genders. They can be used by Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women whose religious beliefs prohibit them from exposing body parts in public. Muslims can perform bathroom ablutions using the hand shower and flip-down seat in the shower.
Unoccupied stalls are indicated by recessed floor lights; when entered, they turn off and the now occupied stall glows from within. From the inside of each stall, users can survey their surroundings by looking through a band of blue one-way mirror located at seated eye-level. Stalls contain low- flush composting toilets that treat human waste through aerobic decomposition.
As users circulate from one station to the next, passing from the outermost grooming station to the innermost toilet wall, they experience a multi-sensory gradient that takes them from public to private, open to closed, smooth to coarse, dry to wet, acoustically reverberant to sound absorptive, ambient to spot lighting.