Tokyo has unveiled a revolutionary change in public restrooms. The capital city of Japan has shown architectural brilliance by creating transparent public restrooms. These restrooms were set up in two parks in the Shibuya district of Japan. The architect behind this invention is Shigeru Ban. He and his team, that consists of Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Fumihiko Maki are all Pritzker Prize-winning architects. This new restroom was invented as a means to alleviate the apprehensions of the public with regards to using public washrooms.
Public restrooms are looked at with unease throughout the globe. According to the architecture’s firm, this new kind of restroom would allow civilians and tourists to judge the hygiene of the restroom without having to enter the premises. The washrooms are made with a new kind of technology. This involves the use of a special kind of “smart glass”. This kind of glass changes its opacity to provide privacy when needed. Hence, when the washroom stalls are locked properly, the transparent glass turns opaque to give privacy to the user. Subsequently, when unlocked a stream of current lights up the walls of the washroom to make it transparent once again.
Moreover, the glass is decorated with vibrant lights that light up the parks in which they are set up. In the architecture firm’s website, it is mentioned that “At night, the facility lights up the park like a beautiful lantern.” Consequently, this contributes to the aesthetic of public architecture in Japan. For years, Japan has been experimenting with making public restrooms more accessible and sanitary to users. For example, previously architects had installed automatic seats that close and open by themselves and seat warmers in public restrooms. This new invention comes as another development to improve Japan’s public infrastructure for the Olympics that were to take place there.
According to the New York Times, this new kind of transparent public restrooms opened up to mixed reviews. Some were fearful about a technological malfunction making the glass transparent even when in use. Others were anxious about getting used to the idea of a transparent restroom. These fears arose because users from inside cannot tell if the walls have turned opaque or not. A schoolteacher told the New York Times that “I am not willing to risk my privacy because someone wants to make a fancy toilet.” However, there were some civilians who were confident behind the science of the washroom.
Japan has been working to revamp public restrooms for quite some time. Between 2017 and 2019 around 300 public washrooms were upgraded from squat-stalls to Western-style commodes. Further, the Nippon Foundation is also working to upgrade seventeen more public washrooms in the busy Shibuya district of Japan. However, some civilians have critiqued this by advising the administration to be more mindful about restrooms in train stations which lack the basic necessities of soap.