Saturday, January 9, 2010

The power of design: Fun in funny places

Recently, while traveling with friends we reconsidered  a question posed  some years ago via questionnaire about how to increase the traffic flow in public restrooms, particularly womens' rooms.

A variety of suggestions were put forward at the time based mostly on dark humor and the assumption that people move more quickly in places that they don't like.

My son suggested that if you really wanted to shake things up that you could significantly change the traffic in mens rooms by putting the urinals back-to-back so the patrons faced each other.  Alternatively, one could place them in a circle facing inwards.

All men  present agreed this was a potent idea that would have far-reaching effects (none that they were in support of).  Some predicted that such a design would create a restroom that no one (man) would use.

The inquiries of the curious women were met with curt certainty and unusual concordance among the men but, no details.

Thus, much giggling ensued.

Tonight I found this wonderful picture by Wim Wiskerke a photographer based in Holland.  He has been a great help to me as I learn the ropes in stock photography and seek to expand and share Gay's available images .  His image that I've included in this post is available at Alamy Stock or from him directly.  It  provides a similar innovative culturally-based approach taken in a REAL mens room in Brussels.  The caption reads "Mens bathroom; urinals at a Brussels restaurant featuring 4 women onlookers, amused, making jokes".

 The anthropologists among us want to assess the response to the design and its impact on use, demand,  and time spent.  We are intrigued.

In truth, the actual solution to the long lines outside the womens loo is  probably to double to number of womens bathrooms available or make all public restrooms unisex.

Then again if some of the ideas proposed here were tried it might be that certain mens rooms could be documented as underutilized and therefore, candidates for renovation into womens rooms.

Please, share your response to these far-fetched notions-- the actual pictures from a Brussles resturant and their loo, or the facing urinals design, how would these affect the situation or environment  we know now?

And, thanks Wim for a great shot.



kmjrose said...

Okay, so here's what I think about the public toilet situation. Increase the number of women's stalls. Decrease the number of men's urinals and put them in stalls, which would increase the time necessary to do the necessary. Men's lines would form. Studies would be conducted on time required to urinate--for both men and women to be equitable--and improvements would be made. No way would women NOT benefit! After all, could things get worse for women? No.
Alternatively, all bathrooms women's style, all unisex, long waits for men and women alike, studies conducted...results as above.

Unknown said...

Meanwhile.... for real fun, the photographer W. Wiskerke had the following to add....
Hi Sharon

Funny indeed!
Yes it's absolutely ok. Thank you for having it up and commenting on it in such a fun way!
I still have no idea who took the original shots of the ladies. They may well be available as a normal wall cover for Belgian loos ;-)

The girl in the middle of the picture is holding a small Canon point and shoot. I'm not sure that's visible here. It could be viewed as a sort of shootout.

Thank you for enjoying my work!


Unknown said...

I wish we could see the little camera better that the photographer mentions. What a nice touch.

To comment by kmrose, the additional advantage of adding stalls to mens rooms is that based on my "interviews" with men they actually would like a few private stalls available to them. So, it would seem like a leap forward and no one would suspect your ultimate agenda.

I would be curious what men think...if you went to the Belgian loo would you think the pictures funny or weird?

I believe if we put life-sized pictures of men on the inner side of stall doors in women's rooms it would not be "ok".

Any men willing to weigh in?