What's going on behind those walls?

By Andrea Romano
April 09, 2021
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public restroom in Sendagaya
Credit: Kenta Hasegawa

Just like you should never judge a book by its cover, so too you should never judge a public restroom by its concrete exterior.

An unassuming, concrete public restroom near Sendagaya Station, close to the Olympic stadium in Tokyo, Japan, is actually a real contender for the most beautiful public restroom in the country, according to Dezeen.

inside the public restroom in Sendagaya
Credit: Kenta Hasegawa

Created by Japanese design studio Suppose Design Office, the concrete slab looks fairly drab on the outside, but the inside is perfectly created to give you a comfortable, hotel-like rest stop with stalls made of Akoya wood.

"Completely closed at eye level, symbolically letting in light from above, and ensuring ventilation through the slit at the foot of the building, we aimed to create an architecture that would allow people to experience the space as more than just a public restroom, as a device for making the surrounding environment apparent," said the studio in a statement shared by Dezeen.

The restroom lets in light thanks to its "floating" design, with natural light and air peeking in from a 500 milimeter (about 1.6 feet) slit around the bottom of the building without sacrificing personal privacy, Dezeen reported, as well as a skylight above. The walls are supported by central columns inside the structure.

"We wanted to create a sense of discomfort in the city by making a lump of concrete, which is normally heavy, look like it was floating so that it would become art in itself," the studio in a statement.

The "block" is about 7.5 meters (about 25 feet), about twice the height of the station, according to Dezeen, and measures 75 square meters (about 807 square feet) with a separation between men's and women's restrooms with wash basins in the center of the structure.

exterior view of public restroom in Sendagaya
Credit: Kenta Hasegawa

"We aimed to create an architecture that would allow people to experience the space as more than just a public restroom, as a device for making the surrounding environment apparent," said the studio to Dezeen. "The public toilets are small buildings, but their small size gives them a familiar scale. On the other hand, they tend to have an image of being disliked from a hygiene standpoint, so we think they are thinking of contributing to the improvement of the cultural level by maintaining architecture on a familiar scale while renewing that bad image."

According to Dezeen, the studio sees this project as one of many to help prepare Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics in Summer 2021.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.