2019 was a year in which illusions were shattered and nothing was as it seemed. Fittingly, trends in design have reflected this: Mirrored facades have popped up everywhere.
For instance, Pezo von Ellrichshausen debuted a mirrored installation at Milan Design Week. Artist Doug Aitken unveiled a new site-specific installation in Gstaad, Switzerland, that was covered in mirrored panels. The artist has a long history of manipulating facades; 2017’s Mirage, in Palm Springs, was a ranch-style home wrapped entirely in mirrors to reflect the arid, sparse surroundings.
And now, Australian design studio Madeleine Blanchfield Architects has unveiled a mirrored outhouse in the lush Kangaroo Valley. The freestanding bathroom, which sits in the midst of the riparian landscape, is designed to accompany a small cabin used for overnight stays. The small structure is cloaked in one-way mirrors, which are transparent from within, but reflective externally.
This “bathroom in the bush” is located on a privately owned hillside in the river valley and appears at the end of a meandering pathway through the vegetation. It holds a bath and shower and uses natural ventilation, septic tanks, and solar-powered lighting to limit its environmental impact, along with a gray-water system developed to recycle rain and other water-based elements. The mirrors change opacity based on light levels. While the designers maintain that the glitzy outhouse is completely invisible during the day, the cube’s lines and edges subtly disrupt the environment, which looks otherwise undisturbed by human construction.
“The client’s desire to create a haven that not only provided connection to the landscape but a place to truly escape and unwind was met through the design,” the architects said in a statement. “By avoiding the temptation to create a visually intrusive folly, the brief for the outhouse was met both visually and experientially. The outhouse heightens the sense of place, makes one consider their location and the vulnerability of humans in the uncontrolled landscape.”
Even still, the use of a mirrored facade here is wise—a creative design solution for a bathroom that hopes to be nondescript, yet discoverable. It’s an architectural wink at the ongoing push and pull between man and nature.