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 euphemism for having to use the facilities.)
I bet that pay-to-pee concept was thought up by men. And although it'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
Men 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 of lighting, it's so badly placed (i.e. directly overhead the person at the mirror) that it throws shadows around the most unflattering places – under brows, under eyes, under nose – so you look like an extra on "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 insanely dark ladies' room at The Thompson Hotel's Colette Grand Café) always make me think of that spend-a-penny era, and that whoever designed the space – some man, surely – gave zero thought to its users. (The restrooms at the Hazelton Hotel in Toronto's Yorkville area are also a fail.)
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! The lead architect on the Telus Centre in Toronto, which houses The Royal Conservatory, was Marianne McKenna, at KPMB.
Am I the only one who thinks about this stuff, or is frustrated – sometimes ragey – about these things? Shouldn't a designer think about the people who use a space rather than only about aesthetics?