We avoid discussing it in polite company, but using the restroom is one of our most basic needs. Organisms, regardless of complexity, require a method to dispose of biological waste, and humans are no exception. Fortunately, society has progressed far beyond our ancestral state, and technology has altered our relationship with this most private of daily activities.
The advancement and expansion of indoor plumbing has significantly improved the process, not to mention removing people from a significant source of disease transmission. Still, most of us use toilets that aren’t all that different from what was available in the late 16th century (via History).
Modern toilets are excellent. They do the job they were designed to do, and they do it reasonably well, but bathrooms have remained largely unchanged for centuries, even as society has progressed. Four hundred years seems like a long time for inventors and engineers to come up with a better solution and finally give our bathrooms the futuristic treatment they deserve. While most of us will probably continue to do our business the same way our parents and grandparents did, there are some impressively high-tech bathrooms out there if you know where to look.
Vertebrae vertical bathroom
When you have more money than space, the Vertebrae vertical bathroom is the ideal solution. For $20,000, you’ll get an all-in-one bathroom solution that includes everything you need, from the toilet to a place to wash your hands.
When compressed, this vertical bathroom system resembles a floor-to-ceiling silver spine. As a result, the name. The height can be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the intended room. The system is made up of seven modular components, each of which addresses a specific bathroom use case (via TrendHunter).
Two shower modules are located on the roof. The intention is for adults to use the upper one and children to use the lower one, but it’s really a matter of preference and individual height. The shower controls are located lower down the spine. Sliding out additional modules reveals storage units, a sink basin with an integrated soap dispenser, and a toilet at the bottom with a toilet roll holder and toilet brush hidden inside.
It’s unclear why you’d want to save space in your bathroom on occasion, but with the Vertebrae vertical bathroom, you’ll have the option to clear floor space the next time you need to… um, stretch out on your bathroom floor or something.
Using the restroom is a risky activity even in the privacy of your own home. But when you move that same activity to a public restroom, everything changes. You’re exposed, possibly embarrassed, and your pants are around your ankles. It’s difficult to think of a worse time for something to go wrong. It would undoubtedly be the worst time for bullets to start flying. However, there is almost never a good time for that.
Fortunately, most of us do not face such threats in our daily lives, let alone while using the restroom. If you’re the type of person who attracts bad luck, or if you’re a government spy on the run from your arch nemesis, you should take your bathroom activities to Beijing’s Zhongguan Village.
According to Luxury Launches, they have released a series of bulletproof public toilets in the village square that can protect you from a variety of threats while you conduct your business. According to Weird Asia News, it may even be able to withstand some explosives. However, any biological explosions caused by you on the inside are your responsibility to deal with.
You’re out on the lake, having a good time, and you’ve had a few too many of your favorite canned beverages. Getting back to shore is a hassle, and you don’t want to ruin the fun by stopping to answer nature’s call. Suddenly, you’re staring at the lake as if it were a giant toilet waiting to solve your problem. Everyone has been there. We understand. However, peeing or worse in a public body of water is unacceptable. Fortunately, many national parks have addressed this issue by installing floating platform toilets.
These are common on public lakes and are intended to provide a place to rest while out on the water. They’re essentially two sturdy porta potties on a deck, anchored to the lake’s bottom (via Oregon.gov).
They discharge into a central holding tank that can hold up to 1,000 gallons of sewage. When they’re full, they’re towed to shore and emptied by a commercial sewage handling company before returning to open water. Using one of these toilets is the most literal way to sit on a toilet that will make you feel as if you’re gently drifting on a calm current, which you will be.
Transparent public restrooms appear to be a terrible idea at first glance. These facilities, which are part of the Tokyo Toilet Project, have floor-to-ceiling glass walls and colorful lighting that beckons the Gondor beacons. Anyone passing by can see inside, which is exactly the point.
The designers of the restrooms intended to address the issues that people face when using public restrooms: cleanliness and whether or not they are occupied (via NPR). Passers-by can see the state of each stall from the outside by making the walls transparent. They can then make an informed decision about whether a stall is available and whether they want to use it without ever having to open the door.
The good news is that they do not remain transparent once in use. When you step inside and close the door, the walls change from clear to a muddy semitransparent. It’s enough to keep other park-goers out of your personal space while still indicating that the stall is occupied.
Furthermore, if you choose to use one of these facilities, you’re likely to have a good time. TOTO, a company known for high-tech toilets with heated seats, bidets, and other features, is advising NPR on toilet design.
Finding a public restroom when you’re out and about can be difficult at the best of times, but it’s especially difficult at night when all of the local businesses have closed. If you’re out with friends late at night and have a sudden bathroom need, you could be in big trouble. When everything else fails, you’ll do what you have to do. As a result, cities spend tens of thousands of dollars or more per year dealing with the problem of public urination (via Hawaii News Now).
Urilift’s solution is to provide pop-up toilets that sink into the ground during the day and rise above the surface at night. They have a few different models available, some with three recessed urinals around a central column and others with individual enclosed stalls. Each toilet raises and lowers itself from its subterranean housing using a hydraulic lift.
Furthermore, the roofs are designed to mimic the design of the sidewalk, making them virtually disappear when recessed into the ground (via Interesting Engineering). You’d never know they were there if you didn’t know ahead of time until they rose from below street level. That would be quite a sight on your way home after a night out.
Anyone who has pets (or small children) has probably had more than their fair share of being watched in the bathroom. It is sometimes unavoidable, but it is not something we would choose, is it?
This one-of-a-kind bathroom in Japan’s Hipopo Papa café puts that theory to the ultimate test by surrounding patrons of one of its restrooms with countless silent observers. According to Oddity Central, the bathroom is surrounded by three large floor-to-ceiling aquariums filled with hundreds of fish and one lone turtle. To be honest, the turtle makes things a little strange. They’re a little too intelligent for your liking, but what are you going to do?
Surrounded by hundreds of unblinking fishy eyeballs doesn’t seem as unsettling as you might think. In fact, it appears to be quite relaxing. You could almost imagine yourself staying longer than necessary just to take in the atmosphere. If you’ve ever wanted to use a powder room that looks like it’s straight out of a Windows 95 screensaver, now’s your chance. The restroom is otherwise pretty standard, with an ordinary-looking toilet, a small trashcan, and a toilet roll, but sitting on this ceramic throne will make you feel like Atlantean royalty.
Egg-shaped toilet pods
According to The Nudge, London’s Sketch restaurant, which is located near Piccadilly Circus, is more of an immersive art installation than a dining establishment. You can, however, eat. Upon entering, you are immediately overwhelmed by the wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling artworks and lavish décor. There are several rooms to choose from, including the Parlour, Lecture Room & Library, Gallery, and Glade, each with its own distinct menu and aesthetic.
Sketch’s owners pay just as much attention to the bathrooms as they do to the communal gathering spaces. If you need to get away from the table to freshen up, there’s a restroom with individual pods for you to use. Each one resembles a Hello Kitty-inspired xenomorph egg.
The pods are modeled after sensory deprivation tanks that have been turned on their ends. They’re the kind of thing you’d use to clone yourself or escape your spaceship just before it self-destructs. According to Business Insider, once inside, you’ll be greeted by strange music, futuristic sounds, and color-changing lighting, all of which contribute to the sensory experience Sketch is attempting to create. It’s up to you whether or not it helps you relieve yourself.
World’s largest public bathroom
It’s often said that bigger is always better, but we’re not so sure when it comes to public restrooms. One way to find out for sure is to visit China’s “porcelain palace.” A sprawling outdoor restroom facility boasting over a thousand toilets spread over an area of more than 32,000 square feet is located inside the now-defunct Foreigner’s Street tourist area in Chongqing, China.
According to NBC News, city officials submitted an application to Guinness World Records to officially enshrine the facilities in their world-famous records book, but no decision has been made as of this writing.
This collection of open-air restrooms reportedly includes televisions and speakers that blast music, but none of that is really necessary because the toilets themselves are entertaining enough. You won’t find row after row of ordinary stalls or urinals there. Instead, the toilets have been artistically designed to double as works of art, taking the form of various sculptures ranging from animals to people.
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The toilets themselves aren’t particularly high-tech, but the sheer planning and plumbing required to handle up to a thousand toilets all being used at the same time is mind-boggling. The porcelain palace, however, is not all smiles. With its short walls and throngs of people, you won’t find much privacy there, but there will never be a line.