Stalled! Blended Reality: Prototype for an All-Gender Public Restroom

Project:

Stalled! Blended Reality will employ virtual reality technologies to develop design prototypes for safe and inclusive public restrooms that addresses the needs of diverse bodies of different genders, ages, and disabilities.

We will employ blended reality as a design and representational tool to generate a blended reality prototype allowing users to experience the visual, acoustic, and tactile qualities of a multi-unit all-gender prototype bathroom.

Project Report:

Re-visioning the restroom: Stalled! Blended Reality

From public transportation to furniture, the designs of everyday architectural spaces and items have historically used ergonomic standards derived from “averages” that are based most frequently on the measurements, needs, and expectations of able-bodied white males.

Joel Sanders, principal of the firm Joel Sanders Architect and a faculty member at Yale’s School of Architecture, has been interested for a number of years in the social justice implications of architectural design. “Public restroom design in particular,” he says, “can trigger personal and often uncomfortable feelings about the nature of embodied experience that tap into deep seated issues about privacy, gender, sexuality, hygiene, and disability.”

Sanders points out that architects tend to think of their discipline as a visual art. “Too often,” he says, “we neglect to think about the biological bodies — bodies that see, hear, smell and touch — who will be inhabiting the spaces we design.”

Those sensory impacts and user needs, Sanders notes, cannot be explored easily or effectively using the conventional design tools of blueprints, floor plans, and scaled models. So, to translate their ideas, and incorporate the needs of a broad range of differently embodied people of all ages, genders, religions and physical capacities, the Stalled! Blended Reality team developed an approach called Diversity Design.

Their process involved identifying a representative sample of user groups, researching the design consequences of their functional and psychological needs, and then finding common creative design solutions that could be shared among them.

Working with this information, the Stalled! Blended Reality team applied the research to the design of a prototypical public restroom for an airport terminal. They employed virtual reality (VR) as a design and representational tool to generate a model that would allow users to experience the visual and acoustic qualities of a multi-unit, all-gender bathroom.   

The larger conceptual framework is based on European style floor-to-ceiling stalls that afford complete privacy. The underlying idea, Sanders says, is the creation of  spaces that are both inclusive and respectful of individuals’ privacy needs and requirements.

While the project began with the intent of creating the airport prototype, the team is also now working with an actual client — Gallaudet University (the world’s only higher education institution in which all programs and services are designed to accommodate those who are deaf and hard of hearing). The airport project involves the creation of a prototype for a generic facility, to be built from the ground up, that would accommodate a high volume of diverse users. The Gallaudet project, on the other hand, explores how to retrofit two existing gendered restrooms into the multi-stalled, all-gender model.  

“In the process of generating design solutions geared to rest rooms,” Sanders says, “we will likely discover other ideas that can be broadly applied to improve the quality of life for the wide range of human bodies interacting in public space.”

Team:

Joel Sanders, Principal, JSA; Professor, YSOA

Joel Sanders is a principal of his award-winning New York based design studio JSA and professor of Architecture at Yale University. Sanders’ writings and practice have explored the complex relationship between culture and social space.

 

David Langdon, M.Arch I Candidate, YSOA

David is a second-year M.Arch I student at the Yale School of Architecture with interests in social justice and urbanism. Before his graduate studies, he worked in civil rights and architecture, and was a 2013 graduate of Yale College.

Edward Wang, Yale College ‘16
Catherine Shih, Yale College ‘15

 

Francesca Carney, M.Arch I Candidate, YSOA

Francesca is a third year graduate student at the Yale School of Architecture. She is interested in 3D capturing technologies and is excited to work with the HP Blended Reality teams to explore the potential of their applications.