Here Are Some Really, Really Weird Public Toilets

They’re meant to evoke “the crusty saltiness of the sea.” Wow.

Westerners have a few basic requirements of a public toilet. I think I speak for most of us when I say that a “sculptural,” “iconic,” “highly visible” form that evokes “the crusty saltiness of the sea” isn’t one of them. But hey, why not?


The Kumutoto public toilets, by architects Studio Pacific, are designed to riff off the maritime surroundings of the northern end of Wellington, New Zealand’s waterfront. Two long segmented concrete tubes, covered in a brick-red steel shell, jut out from the ground like the tails of a couple of sea monsters that happen to be a nice place in which to relieve yourself after finishing off a Big Gulp. Each structure houses a single toilet.

Here’s the architects’ description. It’s so spectacularly colorful, I feel obligated to quote it at length:

These organic forms, eye-catching and instantly memorable, are suggestive of crustaceans or sea creatures, as if the structure was a kind of fossilised husk that had been discovered and inhabited. Recalling the waterfront’s shipping past, they evoke the crusty saltiness of the sea in the smooth levelness of the precinct, clinging to its surface like barnacles to the underside of a boat. Along with adding a playful element to its surroundings, this aquatic reference also links back to the origins of the name Kumutoto, a former pa and ancient stream running under the reclaimed land.

Putting that much thought and energy into a public toilet might seem silly at best, wasteful at worst. Imagine how many more toilets you could squeeze onto the same plot of land if the cantilevered “tails” assumed the form of a regular old box. Turns out, though, the shape is designed to tackle a vexing problem in public restrooms: ventilation. Openings at the tips of the tails help usher stale air outside and fresh air indoors. As we all know, some types of crusty saltiness aren’t nearly as pleasant.

Read about another designy public toilet here.

[Images courtesy of Studio Pacific]


About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D