Why are we ashamed of toilets?

There is a spacious and attractive indoor mall in Chicagoland suffering from a pandemic problem that challenges interior designers regularly.

How should restrooms be incorporated into shared spaces?

This question ends up being answered directly or indirectly by designers of malls, theaters, restaurants, shops, etc.

No matter what primary products or services are provided in the space, if even small numbers of people are expected to spend time in the space, there need to be bathrooms.  The bathroom design can either be thought-out and intentionally aligned with this critical need of the people; or the bathrooms can be an afterthought, an inharmonious side note.

Why is this well-known, critical user need being ignored? Designers?  Where else in good design can you find well known and understood needs that are routinely ignored?

The bathrooms in this mall are down a long dingy hallway, about five hundred feet away from the dining tables.  To access the bathrooms, one must pass under the hanging blue square sign in the picture above and down this ugly hallway into the utility portion of the building.

I wonder what percentage of the people who visit the mall any given day end up using one of the bathrooms? Why the huge shift from beautiful design to ugly design?

Everyone has to go to the bathroom sometimes.  Why are we ashamed of them, hiding them away down a back hallway?

One flush or two?

Many toilets are designed with a dual-flush system. One flush lever meant to be used for liquid waste (which requires less water) and one flush lever meant to be used for solid waste (which requires more water).

Here are a few examples:

In these two designs (as well as most others I have seen) the smaller button is for liquid waste (less water) and the larger button is for solid waste (and more water).

So here is the design challenge:

Given that this device is meant to be energy / resource saving, by helping to conserve water, how can we resolve the following paradoxical situation?

We prefer that the user use the smaller button (expending less water) as often as possible, and only use the larger flush when necessary.  However, the larger button is easier to use, simply because it is bigger.

The current design allows the user to quickly intuit which button releases more water (bigger button = bigger flush), but it does not address the fact that people will tend to use the easier option (bigger button) more often, which is counter to the design intent.

How can we redesign the flush levers such that we still know intuitively which button releases which amount of water, while making it clear that the less water option is the preferred option if possible?

This last picture is actually a single-flush option, but I provided the picture to perhaps provide some design inspiration.

Permanent Seating

Outside a public building in Menlo Park, CA, I saw several of these objects bolted to the wall.


There were about eight of these in a row and at one end, a portable toilet.


The flat panels rotate to make a seat for those folks waiting in line to use the toilet!


An interesting combination of permanent seating with a temporary toilet.

Why do you suppose the seat platforms rotate from vertical to horizontal? A few ideas are (a) to speed drying after the seats get rained on (b) to avoid people leaving trash on the seats (c) any other ideas?