Why Women Need to Teach Men to Design Women-Friendly Washrooms

I rage about restaurant or hipster-bar washroom design that gives zero thought to how women use the space. RAGE.
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I rage about restaurant or hipster-bar washroom design that gives zero thought to how women use the space. RAGE.
the ladies' room at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto

A long time ago in the UK, women had to pay to use public restroom facilities. Men could go anywhere -- their mechanics win -- but women had to spend a penny to unlock a lavatory door. (My mum still says "spend a penny" as a euphamism for having to use the facilities.) I bet that pay-to-pee concept was thought up by men. And although that penny thing's long been discarded, men are still getting it wrong all too often when it comes to designing women-friendly washrooms.

men need help designing washrooms for women

Too many hipster restaurants, bars and other venues with public facilities have clearly been designed by men who don't know how to create women-friendly washrooms. They just don't have a clue what women need in a restroom. For instance:

  • the washrooms are so dark you can barely find the TP, let alone see to touch up your makeup if you need to (My favourite: washroom stalls lit by a single candle that someone thinks is lovely and moody, but really makes me want to throw it at whoever came up with that stupid idea. Looking at you, La Societé, Paris.)
  • if there is some kind lighting, it's so badly placed that it throws shadows around the most unflattering places -- under brows, under eyes, under nose -- so you look like the walking dead
  • there's no hook on which to hang your bag out of the way, nor safe surface upon which to place a purse or shopping bag while you do your business or wash your hands
  • there's either no mirror, or it's so tiny and ill-positioned that you can see perhaps only your chin, or one eye, or an ear at a time

Washrooms like these (now I'm thinking of the dark ladies' room at The Thompson, along the back wall of their front restaurant area) always make me think of that spend-a-penny era, and that whoever designed the space -- some man -- gave zero thought to its female users. (The Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville is another who failed at women-friendly washrooms. The facilities on the lobby level are dark, with inadequate hooks  for hanging a purse in the stalls.)

The bright, safe-surface-rich, zillion-stall, women-friendly washroom in the opening photo is at the Royal Conservatory on Bloor St. West in Toronto. Designed by a female?

UPDATE: Ahh HA! Oh I do love being right. The lead architect on the Telus Centre in Toronto, which houses The Royal Conservatory, was Marianne McKenna, at KPMB.

Ladies room at the Telus Centre_Royal Conservatory was indeed designed by a woman