Terrific toilets built in Aspen by Charles Cunniffe Architects

rio grande restroom
© Charles Gunniffe Architects

Who says loos have to be boring and utilitarian?

Years ago I asked Why can’t our public toilets be like the ones they build in Norway? The same question can be asked about sewage treatment plans or even incinerators. In Europe, they seem to care about the design of everything, even the most mundane of buildings.

That’s why it’s so nice to see these lovely loos designed for Rio Grande Park in Aspen, Colorado, by Charles Cunniffe Architects. They tell Architect Magazine:

The building's design incorporates familiar forms, low maintenance native materials and a color palette intended to blend with the environment.

The building's exterior skin is a Gabion wire crib filled with river rock obtained on-site from the ongoing stormwater pond redevelopment, while the simple gable & shed roofs are of rusted steel reminiscent of Aspen's mining heritage. Numerous sustainable design features have been integrated into the building's design, including a greywater garden, composting toilets, daylight & occupancy sensors and a BIPV [building integrated photovoltaic] skylight, which will provide ample day lighting for the majority of the year.

That looks like a big Clivus Multrum composter in the basement.

The interior looks less exciting than the exterior, but public washrooms are really hard to do. One architect with North American experience in public washrooms noted in the previous post that “The reason they're utilitarian and boring is because public restrooms face the worst of the worst when it comes to use patterns and vandalism.” Which is really too bad.

The architects also include a photo of a whole lot of women lining up to use the washrooms.

And in fact, when you look at the plans, men get four fixtures and women only get three. This is the reverse of "Potty Parity", where women get more fixtures than men. According to Laura Bliss in Citylab,

Research shows women take on average twice as long as men in the restroom, yet it is the rare public space that provides equal access. An insufficient number of women's restrooms regularly results in mind-bogglingly disproportionate wait times, leading to countless minutes wasted at sports arenas, movie theaters, and perhaps worst of all, the office.

Clearly it is also the case in parks.

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