Each year, Ohio-based Cintas Corporation releases
the winner of its annual America’s Best Restroom
contest. Though each winner is unique, Cintas’s
Jillian Bauer says they also share certain qualities.
“Obviously the public expects a clean restroom.
Functionality is super important,” she says.
“But, it’s also about having some kind of unique
or quirky quality.”
The most recent Best Restroom winner,
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport,
includes 100 sets of public restrooms being
replaced through 2025. Designers created softer
lighting and included small waiting areas inside,
as well as screens with flight information, and
curated art display cases. The entrances to each
restroom feature mosaic art created by a variety
of local artists. “We loved how they used the
mosaics to give a local feel to it, but then [it] also
became an identifying aspect for customers to
find them,” Bauer explains. That said, the design
also included very practical elements, like inserts
in the walls where people could place their bags
while using the facilities.
The 2015 Best Restroom winner, a public facility
from the Colorado town of Minturn, showed that
even a portable facility could be well designed.
The form of the individual restrooms was digitally
fabricated to resemble the shape of an adit, a
horizontal passageway into a Rocky Mountain
mine. “Just the fact that a porta-potty could win
surprised us,” Bauer says. “It’s very clean and sleek
and there’s not much in there, but it’s beautiful and
memorable. You don’t feel like you’re outdoors
going to the restroom.”
Cintas conducts a Best Restroom Contest
in Canada as well. Recent winners include the
facilities at Whitecourt Esso Super Station in
Whitecourt, Alberta; Shaw Club Hotel & Spa
in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario; and the Langley
Street Loo in Victoria, British Columbia.
RETHINKING SINKS AND DRYERS
Today, the relationship between hand washing
and hand drying is also evolving, with more
combinations of the two rather than requiring
individuals to step with dripping hands across a
space to reach a towel rack or hand dryer. Dyson,
for example, has designed a product called the
Airblade Tap, in which a hand dryer is part of
the faucet apparatus itself.
“Many companies have experimented with
products where the hand dryer resides within
the faucet or the bowl,” says TOTO President of
Operations Bill Strang. “The di;culty is it does
have a tendency to blow water up towards your
face.” TOTO is working on a model where the dryer
is mounted between two sinks, in a hole in the
counter. “You wash your hands, move 18 inches
to the right, and it dries them o;,” Strang says.
“We think it’s a very good solution.”
To really create e;ective wash-and-dry
combinations, though, Mark Bickersta;e, global
director of new product development for Kohler,
believes the future may bring hardware that
doesn’t look like the sinks and dryers we know.
“With the technology we’re using now, you need
to holistically design the whole thing. It may look
less like a faucet. But, that’s the future. It’s an
Apple-esque approach: work from what you’re
trying to do and reinvent the product. You have
to take people on a journey to that.”
Airport, entrances to public restrooms
feature mosaic art.
ABOVE: TO TO's Clean Dry hand dryer is
mounted between two sinks for ease of use.