A bathroom with see-through walls might sound like a terrible idea, but as Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban has demonstrated, it’s actually genius.
As part of the Tokyo Toilet project, he designed two public restrooms with transparent glass walls—however, they aren’t just regular glass walls. Once someone goes into the cubicle and locks the door, the state-of-the-art partitions turn opaque, giving the user privacy. The rationale behind this design is that it allows users to see what’s inside from afar, making sure that the facilities are clean and safe before entering.
“There are two things we worry about when entering a public restroom, especially those located at a park,” Ban explained. “The first is cleanliness, and the second is whether anyone is inside.”
Unlike traditional restrooms, Ban’s facilities are colorful and vibrant—a reflection of their surroundings. For instance, the toilet at the Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park (the first photo) has glass tinted with green and blue to mirror the trees.
There’s also the toilet at the Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park, which was inspired by a nearby playground’s hues of orange, purple, and pink. The toilets are divided into three cubicles: one for women, one for men, and an accessible facility bathroom. At night, the restrooms light up, resembling lanterns in the dark.
As mentioned, Ban came up with the concept for the Tokyo Toilet project, which collaborates with 16 renowned creatives to redesign public toilets around Shibuya to promote accessibility and hospitality. You can learn more about the initiative here.