Rethinking a restroom from just the right angle.

I have yet to create a special tag or keyword on my blog for my numerous articles on public restrooms. Perhaps I should. Sometimes I feel like a letch for writing about them so much, and yet I know I’m hardly alone having a certain fascination—not only in the interior design, but the engineering for safety, the unexpected amenities squeezed within a stall, and even the choice of labels for “male” and “female” in these androgynous times.

So here’s a head-scratcher: a nearly century-old building that experienced an almost complete renovation and repurposing to general offices in recent years.IMG_0015 Seems like a typical men’s restroom, right? Take a look at the restroom stall (not the urinals) and the wall to the left of the doorway. No pivot to the left a bit further.weird L-shaped restroom stall

It features an extra-wide doorway, which leads to…

IMG_0017

…another stall. Not bizarre in and of itself, but check out the configuration of the walls, once inside the larger stall.

IMG_0018

Essentially, the large stall wraps around the smaller one in an L-shape, resulting in an unusually elaborate array of partitions to demarcate the space.

So why the extra effort? I’d say it’s pretty obvious from that extra-wide doorway: the stall with the L-shaped passageway is the ADA compatible one. After all, it also has the compulsory support bars on either side of the toilet, typically installed to assist people with access and functional needs.

IMG_0017

But, beyond the wide doorway, the rest of the stall is unusually narrow. Would a person in a wheelchair genuinely be able to rotate his way from the chair onto the toilet? I have no doubt that, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But, whereas the optimal handicapped-friendly restroom offers width so that the person can approach the toilet laterally, this one it’s a head-on approach, using the support more like a gymnast’s parallel bars. It would take some upper-body strength that’s significantly to the right of the bell curve.

The whole configuration is bewildering, but only when one looks at it in isolation. This is an old structure, after all, and I suspect the placement of the toilets (and all the accompanying plumbing) predates the renovation. And predates the Americans with Disabilities Act as well, meaning the original developer situated those toilets in the walls long before the consideration of wheelchair access was a thing. The renovators, rather than reinstalling the toilets with more space between them—a phenomenally expensive prospect (new plumbing is disproportionately pricey)—decided the cheaper solution would be to reconfigure the partitions themselves, creating stalls that defy common sense, but still probably barely scrape by in terms of code compliance.

It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s a practical one. And, in an era when repurposing old buildings is not just a good conservationist gesture (an anti-sprawl act) but increasingly smart in terms of IRR (internal rate of return), it’s good to see a developer who found a solution that didn’t require massive surgery. Because the re-engineering of pipes is painful, whether structural or biomedical.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email

3 thoughts on “Rethinking a restroom from just the right angle.

  1. Oran Sands

    The pipe chase in a building is the backbone of the house. It’s painful to relocate if not impossible after the house is built. Putting a bathroom away from it is very expensive unless a crawlspace is available to run pipes under a floor.

    Reply
    1. AmericanDirt

      Agreed. I’d imagine a labyrinth of stalls, walls and doors would be cheaper than pushing a toilet two feet away from its neighboring commode. Hard to imagine, but such is life. Situations like these make me both appreciate the ADA while recognizing how onerous it can be on cash-starved small businesses.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. You are not required to sign in. Anonymous posting is just fine.