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Tomorrow's public toilet

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is asking five leading architectural practices to come up with new ideas for the public loo as part of their 175th birthday celebrations.

Click on the images below to see their designs and tell us what you think .

Eva Jiricna's public toilet designDSDHA's public toilet designRobert Adam's public toilet designWill Alsop's public toilet designFAT's public toilet design

Eva Jiricna public toilet

Eva Jiricna Architects have designed a toilet that could be mass produced and "plugged" into a specific location.

From a central service point radiate pods which could be made to glow or even play music as the call of nature calls.

The doors would operate like a VW van, opening outwards and sideways and the pods could even be have their own TVs.

There is also the option of pods that provide undercover seating, advertisements, video projection and vending machines, not to mention solar batteries, wind turbines or light sculptures.

DSDHA toilet design

The DSDHA conducted a poll of 100 people to find out what the public are looking for in their conveniences.

They found that 75% of people want a hands-free toilet experience and 70% are willing to spend up to 20p to spend a penny.

"We combined this desire for cleanliness and quality with putting beauty back on to our streets," they say.

"So our WC is elevated to the status of a well-loved civic monument - as a series of public sculptures, a celebration of sanitation.

"Offering a bespoke sense of place rather than a standardised solution, the toilets incorporate fountains, perhaps devoted to mythical river gods, and offer the city both art and practicality.

"Along with statuary and sculpture, each would be designed with a free-flowing drinking and hand-wash fountain, generous informal seating as well as the promise of the best-maintained toilets in the western world."

Robert Adam's public toilet

"Like all public fixtures on our streets, practical functions should be an opportunity for fine design," says architect Robert Adam.

"The classical lavatory is a modern facility with the best standards and access and it is also a pavilion in the tradition of the old telephone box and London's taxi drivers' shelters."

Adam's design is made of pressed metal, and its circular form "can fit in just about anywhere" with a choice of either discreet or brightly coloured exterior.

"Its classical form would be suitable for new and historical areas and rather than being an unfortunate necessity would be an interesting ornament," he says.

Will Alsop's public toilet

"A public lavatory should feel fresh and clean and a lot of our perception of cleanliness is through smell," says architect Will Alsop.

"So I propose a loo that lifts up to let you in, thereby remaining open and well-ventilated when not in use.

"The toilet furniture would be made from concrete, so becoming part of the street, whereas the object which encloses it would be lightweight, sculptural and well-lit.

"This loo would contribute to the street in its presence and be a pleasure to use."

FAT's public toilet

Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT) also designed a public toilet housed in sculpture - in this case a giant sculptural Hercules' head in the classical style lying on the ground, entered through a door based on that of No10 Downing Street.

"The sculpture is conceived as a humorous antidote to the miserable and terrifying concrete Tardis that are the unfortunate mainstay of our miserly public toilet provision," they say.

"Inside will be a view of the sky through an oculus in Hercules' truncated neck. The design suggests the gendering of public toilets, something we are sure many women especially would welcome.

"Perhaps the ladies could take the form of a sculptural head representing Athena, Goddess of wisdom, warfare, strategy, handicrafts and reason, or Aphrodite, Goddess of love, lust and beauty."

What do you think of the designs? Let us know using the form below.

I love the design of the vase, but I would worry that it would get stuck. I liked the idea of the pavilion when I heard about it, but I think it is a bit disappointing and dull. The flowers would be pretty in parks, and I liked the colours, but my favourite design is the head, because it made me laugh!
Anna Cooper (10), Lymington, England

Most of those designs look like typical architects' flights of fancy - with the notable exception of Robert Adams. Whilst that looks a little out of place in the middle of parkland, it would blend in fine in almost any town centre. The main negative to that design is that large parts of it do look similar to the already existing (and butt ugly!) "Superloo" coin-operated metal boxes
Ben, Kenilworth

Rather than a Hercules or Athena head (pun intended ?), I would rather see heads of modern notables. I can just imagine the queue of people willing to spend 20p to urinate inside, say, Gordon Brown's head!
Alan Douglas

How desperate would you have to be to use a toilet that is exposed to the elements most of the time? No way would I sit on that after it's soaked up a day's worth of city smog and grime. Never mind the worry that it will open up while your 'in situ'. Pigeons might use it... but not people.
P Oighty, London

All very well, but what about the inside?

All public toilets seem to assume, even in stations and airports that you have no luggage, no shopping and no need to hurry. You complete your business, with nowhere to put your shopping/briefcase/overcoat/suitcase then lug them all to a washbasin. Again nowhere to put things. You wash your hands and now, with dripping hands, you have to pick up all your stuff again and queue for a drier, always some distance away, (And why are there always fewer driers than basins?) dump your impedimenta again, with its wet handles, dry your hands, wet them again on your luggage, fumble out a hanky to complete the job and finally leave, probably via some cattle-grid sort of contraption.

Do architects have some special sort of internal plumbing that means that they never need to notice this sort of thing? All this is so much more important than jokey exteriors, however charming. None of it is difficult. Am I the only one to protest?
David Malarkey, Croydon, England

I can't help but think of Monty Python's theme tune when I look at the FAT contribution. The idea of John Cleese marching towards the door of number 10... fantastic! What I also see is a lack of natural materials being utilised. Cedar wood works particularly well with toilets/wet rooms and can be sealed well enough to be easily cleaned of germs and graffiti.
Wayne, Plymouth, Plymouth Devon

I like the Hercules head, but would basically like to see a return to replica Victorian toilets with high cisterns (gravity is greener!)and wood seats, floor to ceiling reclaimed wood cubicles and nice china basins with lever taps. Modern toilets are too small and squat - no use for larger users and too low to the ground - not even handy for the disabled! My nod to modernity would be Dyson airblades as more hygienic than roller towels. I would also have them all attended and with mirrors, hooks on doors, decent lighting, pictorial tiles and soft piped music. Anyone who misused them for drug use or sexual opportuning would be arrested and fined heavily (which would be ploughed back into their maintenance budgets) though would be happy to pay between 20-30p per visit to public WCs we could be proud of!
Laura King, Oxford

The above are very colourful and nice to look at but the inside of a public loo is not always user friendly or hygeinic especially for the disabled. The height of the toilet and the positioning of grab rails and wash basin and hand drier. I am a wheelchair user so know all the problems.
Mrs Mary Rowe, Bideford, Devon

The designs are an inspiring example of combining form with function (especially the idea of useful public sculptures) - and the competition is a welcome way of highlighting the lack of public toilets and associated lack of legislation requiring them. We need them for visitors and tourists to public areas - and our tourism market would benefit from 'iconic loos'. Those in tourist areas should be able to accommodate large groups - and there should be more cubicles for women users (just look at the queues). The Blue Badge professional tourist guides have an 'Inconvenience Committee' to promote better planning and provision of these essential amenities - which have a public health role in promoting hand washing as well as the more obvious function. Good public toilets are the sign of a civilized society - and they should ideally be free (or have free cubicles for those without the change to use them), as well as frequent servicing. How about putting at least one of each of these innovative designs in parks and large squares - starting with Parliament Square and near Buckingham Palace?
Ros Stanwell-Smith, London England

Oh, yes. What a fantastic idea! A loo that uses huge amounts of energy to lift itself off the ground. That gets rained on and filled with dead leaves and litter. That traps you inside if there's a power cut or the hydraulics break down. That risks horrific injuries if it closes on your foot. The advantages are endless!
David Richerby, Leeds, UK

I think Eva Jiricna Architects one is far too flambouyant, although it would be easy to find due to its striking colours. Do not like William Alsops one, for me it is far too modern. My favourite is Robert Adams as I feel it would fit into the London landscapes.
Patricia, Middlesex

Out of the designs no.2 ( no pun intended ) is the most likely to be build the others are fine but too costly to repair when vandalised! besides what town would have the space to build them . the 3rd design would be used by drunks with the curtains coming down
Lee Rennie, Birmingham

Having public toilets which are open, clean and signposted is more important than what form the outside takes. Ideally this should be something in keeping with it's surroundings. I had expected more details on the inside of the toilet or how it makes use of rain water. In many places there are closed up toilets which just need opening up and looking after.
Jenny Em, Aberdeen

These architects have to be joking. TVs in loos, they would remain intact for perhaps a day! Sorry, but in the UK we have to have durable and practical toilets with nothing to vandalise. They need to be well ventilated and its here that architects always make another mistake ventilating toilets according to the building regulations for domestic use. And they wonder why they smell. Then finally the provider has to maintain them and most local authorities just don't do this. I've seen it all before, fancy designs with no true comprehension of being practical, no interest in maintenance and then after a while they're closed because lack of funds. My background.....a surveyor who used to work for a council!
John, Norwich

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