Due to the unsanitary conditions of many public toilets in the rural Xiaoshan District in China, Shulin Architectural Design has created a pilot public amenity structure that aims to meet modern design practices and create an inclusive place for the entire community.
Dongshan Public Toilet, located in a village in Xiaoshan District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is a pilot demonstration for public toilets amid rural revitalisation. The local villages, epitomising the typical rural landscape in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, bears both mixed style and characteristics of different regions. The aesthetics have changed as traditional buildings in the village disappear and the resident population seek jobs in the cities. In this context, Shulin Architectural Design tried to fit in the villages of Xiaoshan.
In the District, a public toilet is available in every village to meet the needs of villagers. However, the sanitary condition and supporting facilities of many public toilets fail to meet the modern standards and villagers started to lodge complaints on the disorderly environment, which calls for an immediate renovation. The architects updated and sorted out the landscape of several villages in Xiaoshan, and the design covered public toilets.
The site of the public toilet is a small triangular area, with village roads on the two sides. On the one side, there is a modern residential building with three floors, whose shape and boundary are clearly defined by the surrounding environment. A well-shaped cedar tree sits at the corner of roads intersection. There is a river and a public square not far from the public toilet. In the evening, villagers often walk along the river for sports or various events on the square, which gives the venues public spatial attributes.
“When designing the public toilet, we hope it will become a public and inclusive place where villagers can bring in more daily and trivial activities,” state the architects.
To increase the possibility for public activities, the public toilets should conduct function separation in the first place, breaking the stereotypes and layout of traditional public toilets. Shulin Architectural Design deconstructed the definition of public toilets and split its functions into: male toilets, female toilets, tool rooms, toilets for the disabled, sinks, and rest waiting seats. These functional areas are separated and recombined into independent functional blocks.
During the reorganisation, the architects found that the space functions have become diversified after function separation. The sink becomes a place for villagers to wash vegetables and groceries, the rest seat becomes a place for villagers to chitchat and the gray space under the roof becomes a public space that the villagers can walk freely. The space has evolved into a place for communication, which brings more possibilities to the villagers. They meet and chat in the public toilets to exchange ideas and get together, so that the public toilets serve the public function of the station and a gathering place for villagers.
The organisation and material-use of the building are very clear. Several blocks serving different functions integrated with the ground are randomly distributed. The wall material is consistent with the ground material properties with the former being terrazzo doped with black and white pebbles while the latter being a washed stone mixed with grey medium-grain stones. One is exquisite while the other is rough, with similar colours and slightly different textures.
The dozens of white steel columns integrated with the top surface are also irregularly distributed and interspersed in the gaps of the blocks. The column and the block are freely and disorderly integrated. The ground block and the top column are embedded with each other, constituting the relationship of light and heavy, white and grey, public and private. The spatial orientation is blurred that people can traverse, the visual line can penetrate and air can flow, creating a public space featuring freedom, lightness, flowing and relaxation.
After its construction, Shulin Architectural Design went back to the village to conduct research on the use of public toilets. Feedback from villagers is positive. The toilets were so popular that there is not enough space during peak hours in the morning. The white and light public toilets are quite novel to the villagers. Being lit up at night, the public toilets can also become a guiding light in the village centre.
Via ArchDaily | Images © Yilong Zhou