Architecture

Visitors to transparent bathroom won't be caught with their pants down

Visitors to transparent bathro...
You can see through the smart glass when the bathrooms are not occupied
You can see through the smart glass when the bathrooms are not occupied
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You can see through the smart glass when the bathrooms are not occupied
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You can see through the smart glass when the bathrooms are not occupied
The bathrooms are part of a scheme to promote public toilets called The Tokyo Toilet Project
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The bathrooms are part of a scheme to promote public toilets called The Tokyo Toilet Project
The bathrooms include a men's toilet, women's toilet, and gender-neutral disabled access toilet
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The bathrooms include a men's toilet, women's toilet, and gender-neutral disabled access toilet
The smart glass requires power to be transparent, when the bathrooms are in use the power is cut and the glass turns opaque
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The smart glass requires power to be transparent, when the bathrooms are in use the power is cut and the glass turns opaque
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The Japanese have some unusual bathrooms, but we'd guess most prefer to use them without an audience. So what's the deal with these see-through Tokyo public toilets by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban? Well, though they're transparent when not in use, they turn opaque when occupied.

The bathrooms are located in Haru-no-Ogawa Community Park and the Yoyogi Fukamachi Mini Park, both in Tokyo's Shibuya area. The only difference between them is that the first is cyan, lime green, and blue, while the second is yellow, pink, and purple. Their colorful transparent design definitely stands out, but has a practical reason too.

"There are two concerns with public toilets, especially those located in parks," explains non-profit The Nippon Foundation, the organizers behind the project. "The first is whether it is clean inside, and the second is that no one is secretly waiting inside. Using a new technology, we made the outer walls with glass that becomes opaque when the lock is closed, so that a person can check inside before entering. At night, they light up the parks like a beautiful lantern."

The bathrooms are part of a scheme to promote public toilets called The Tokyo Toilet Project
The bathrooms are part of a scheme to promote public toilets called The Tokyo Toilet Project

That "new technology" is an unspecified model of smart glass. We spoke to a representative who confirmed that the bathrooms are configured so that voltage must be applied to make the glass transparent, then when someone locks the door, the electrical supply is cut and it goes back to its default opaque state – the idea being that nobody is going to be showing their full moon to the entire Land of the Rising Sun because of a power cut. However, if you look closely at the photo above, you can make out some defining features of the bathroom interior, so maybe it's not best suited to modest types anyway.

The bathrooms were created for the The Tokyo Toilet Project, which involves 16 architects, including Shigeru Ban, Fumihiko Maki, Takenosuke Sakakura, and another Japanese Pritzker Prize winner, Tadao Ando. The organizers hope to "demonstrate the possibilities of an inclusive society by being accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, age, or disability" and 17 planned bathrooms in total are expected to be completed by early 2021.

Source: The Nippon Foundation

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6 comments
RobC
I saw a similar concept in Amsterdam 10 to 15 years ago but only the stall doors were normally transparent then opaque when occupied.
martinwinlow
A perfectly contrived example of 'form over function' (and that is *not* a compliment!).
Eddy
Seem to remember many years ago one in London
Worzel
I wonder how vandal resistant they are, given the short life of some glass bus shelters?
windykites
Would you trust it to work? Talk about getting caught with your pants down!
foxpup
The phrase "voltage must be applied to make the glass transparent" is absolutely vital. Imagine if it was the reverse and in California with its rolling blackouts.