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Thursday, December 04, 2008


Bathroom, washroom, toilet, powder room, ladies’/men’s room, whatever we call it, it is the one place in any public or semi-public place — including restaurants, hotels, concert halls, clubs or bars — that really tells what the entire establishment is all about.

Sometimes it may be possible to fake customer care, cool or luxury at the front end, but the truth is always revealed in the loo. If the bathrooms are ordinary, filthy or in poor repair — or all three — you can be sure that the whole concept is just surface glare, without substance and without true respect of the guests.

Just as the owners’ attitudes are reflected in the staff they or their managers hire, their true values and beliefs are revealed in the places that get overlooked in poorly executed concepts: parking garages, coat checks, kitchens, and most visibly and most commonly, bathrooms.
It continues to baffle us why it is not obvious that the experience of going to a concert or dining at a restaurant includes the entire experience, not just parts of it. The divine food in a restaurant or the concert at a venue has a lot to cover up if the journey to your seat was poor agony. We have all had experiences like this: You were scared in the car park, got soaked in the line-up outside, had your wet coat crushed and your scarf dropped at the coat check, and when you proceeded to freshen up in the bathroom, it was completely uninspiring, poorly lit, ill-equipped and stinky. You are disappointed, but not surprised. It has happened too often.
Which is why we are glad that bathrooms are starting to get some serious design attention. There is so much room to impress and surprise that it is amazing everyone isn’t doing something about it. It is one huge untapped opportunity. Because most of us have been so thoroughly underwhelmed hundreds of times, our expectations are quite low to start with.
Owners and designers of such places have an unprecedented chance to surprise, please and pamper us, and to show that they really mean business all the way through.
We are hoping that we will be seeing much more of great bathroom design and that there will be fewer disappointments in your future. Let us know when that happens. - Tuija Seipell
architecture NOW

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