At first , it is difficult to understand how a public toilet with transparent walls could help reduce the anxiety felt by many people in public toilets, but this is precisely what a counterintuitive project of one from Japan's most innovative architects.
All over the world, public toilets are frowned upon. Even in Japan, where toilets have a higher standard of hygiene than in most countries, locals fear public toilets will be dark, dirty, smelly and scary.
To cure public phobia, the Nippon Foundation, a non-profit organization, launched the "Tokyo Toilet Project", asking 16 renowned architects to renovate 17 public toilets located in the public parks of Shibuya, one of the commercial areas the busiest in Tokyo.
The goal was to apply an innovative design to make public toilets accessible to all, regardless of gender, age or disability, with the aim "to make people feel comfortable in these public toilets and to foster a spirit of hospitality for the next person, "according to a statement from the Nippon Foundation.
The most talked about project so far is that of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, whose transparent toilets appeared this month in Haru-no-Ogawa Park and the mini park of Yoyogi Fukamachi.
The two units each have three cabins, which are surrounded by transparent glass tinted in cyan, lime green, blue, yellow, pink or purple.
The transparent design has a practical reason, which is to allow a person to easily check the interior before entering.
Public toilets, especially those located in parks, pose two problems: the first is whether the interior is clean, and the second is that no one is secretly waiting inside.
The design is based on new smart glass technology that makes walls opaque when the door is locked. Smart, right?