It must be the signs of the (pandemic) times. People are tired—and weary, irate even—about news on Covid, swab testing, or contact tracing. Enough of that! Let’s go to the toilet.
So it was literally a toilet that trended in the architecture world, when the Nippon Foundation in Tokyo, Japan unveiled two public toilets as part of its Tokyo Toilet project. These are not just your run-of-the-mill toilets, which sparkle with pearly white tiles when new, but one with transparent glass walls.
Transparent? Yes, which means people outside the toilet can see what’s inside, from the bowl, bin, and floor. But before you complain about privacy, the transparent wall becomes opaque when the restroom is locked and occupied.
The website, tokyotoilet.jp, details the story behind these first-of-its-kind public transparent toilets, which are located in Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park and Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park. The website reveals that the designer, Shigeru Ban, is a Pritzker Prize-winning architect. If you can’t live in a house that he has designed, then you can do your “thing” instead at his “special” toilet.
“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park. The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside. Using the latest technology, the exterior glass turns opaque when locked. This allows users to check the cleanliness and whether anyone is using the toilet from the outside,” says Ban.
At night, Ban explains, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern. How’s that for dual purpose?
Each facility features three separate cubicles—a male, female, and for those on a wheelchair. These three are also divided by mirrored walls.
Both structures are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing. At the Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park, the glass comes in hues of green and blue to complement the trees and sky, while the toilets at Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park based its wall colors from the nearby playground area, with shades of orange, pink, and purple.
Now, how would this transparent toilet fare in the Philippines? At first, this would indeed become an attraction, especially when placed in big parks like Luneta or the Quezon Memorial Circle. It could be an “online sensation,” with its own hashtags, videos, and media coverage. Pinoys would line up, even pay a fee, just to use this. They would be curious about using a toilet with transparent walls, and maybe, find (toilet) humor in its walls, which turn opaque when the door is closed.
After the novelty wears off, that transparent toilet would just become one of those park toilets in such a sad and sorry state. Don’t blame me for stating the truth. Once the quarantine is over, visit your nearest community park and check the toilets there. You’ll know what I mean.