Want to try one of the best-designed bathrooms of the year? You’ll have to go to LaGuardia

The HOK-designed space has live orchids, a dedicated room for nursing moms, and motion-activated everything.

Public bathrooms are unequivocally awful: They’re dirty. They’re smelly. And generally, the only way to deal with them is to do your business as quickly as possible and get out. Perhaps the worst offenders among all of them are airport toilets, which tend to be extra crowded and feel extra grimy.


But shockingly, the finalists for an annual competition to find the best bathroom in the United States includes two bathrooms at airports: at Seattle’s Sea-Tac, and even more surprisingly, at New York City’s LaGuardia. Yes, you read that correctly: These two airport bathrooms are up for consideration as the best bathroom in the country. Why? For the most part, because they’re designed to help you avoid touching as many surfaces as possible.

[Photo: LaGuardia]
The competition is run by the corporate supply company Cintas, which asks the public to vote on a handful of bathroom designs every year. This year’s finalists include a restroom located in LaGuardia’s recently revamped Terminal B, designed by the international megafirm HOK. It was designed to help people use it without having to actually touch it, with motion-activated sinks, soap dispensers, and flush valves. An adjacent mothers’ room makes this bathroom far more welcoming for nursing women than the amenities in some offices. There are even real live orchids living in the bathroom to contribute to the zen feel—something people who are rushing to catch a flight will surely appreciate.

[Photo: Sea-Tac]
The other airport bathroom included in the contest, this one at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s new North Satellite Terminal, similarly features a hands-free design. It’s also eco-friendly: The water that flushes your waste away partially comes from a rainwater harvesting system that can contribute 750,000 gallons of water each year to the bathroom (a clever addition, given how much it rains in the Pacific Northwest).


A few other bathrooms that made the final list are noteworthy for their design: The restaurant Butcher and the Brewer in Cleveland, Ohio, has a common row of sinks accessible from both the men’s and women’s sections of the bathroom, and each side has its own set of private stalls. Similarly, the restrooms at a French restaurant called La Belle Helene in Charlotte, North Carolina, has shared sinks with unisex bathrooms. There’s an Instagram-friendly component too, with a hand-painted mural behind the vanity mirror that really makes bathroom selfies pop.

Perhaps the most exciting bathroom on the list is at the zoo in Nashville. Located in the zoo’s Peruvian section, one wall of the women’s bathroom is a glass window behind which lives a family of six cottontop tamarins. Not to be outdone, the men get their own critters in the bathroom near the zoo’s entrance, which features a view of a ball python snake. You can vote for your favorite bathroom until September 13, after which Cintas will announce which bathroom takes the crown.


About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable


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