Exploring interactions in a public toilet aditya pawar
1Exploring Interactions in a Public ToiletAditya PawarMSc. Design for Interaction, Department of Industrial Design Engineering, Delft University ofTechnologyLandbergstraat 15, 2628 CE Delft, The Netherlandsapawar@student.tudelft.nlABSTRACTThis paper discusses the design and role of publictoilets in today’s society. It shares the process of designfor a hypothetical public toilet for the Efteling,Netherlands, for which two concepts have beenproposed.The concept focuses on a solution for claustrophobictoilets, which are a result of shortage of public space incities and the social context. The concepts also touchupon the spatial nature of privacy and the communityrole of public toilets.KeywordsPublic toilets, Interaction Design, Privacy & Space,Community Architecture.1. INTRODUCTIONIt is seen that with the shrinking of cities a general lackof space prevails. This also has its bearings on thedesign of public toilets.This results in an inconvenienced experience for a toiletgoer, weather it is in terms of claustrophobia,awkwardness with strangers in the toilet or issues ofprivacy and hygiene.This project was initiated as a proposal to the Efteling(an attraction park in the Netherlands) for a redesigningof the toilet experience there.The design process started with research with a focuseduser group – children, and went on to examine theinteraction with adults and visitors of the Efteling.The paper is divided into research, research findingsand the two final concepts.2. RESEARCHThe initial stage of the design was started with agenerative session with children aged 6 to 12 years. Theexercises included a sensitisation workbook that thechildren were to fill the week before the session. Thestart of the session had a ‘draw your dream loo’exercise with discussion of the sensitization bookletsintermittently. In the second half of the session thechildren were handed a bunch of ‘happy’ and ‘sad’faces on post-its which they used to express their dislikeor liking for objects/ spaces in the loo. Later, theyrefurbished the parts they had marked as beingunhappy.An example of the refurbished idea (fig 1) was a‘character based flush’, which the concerned boy saidwas like a friend in the loo. Another example was of a 6year boy wanting a camera to see everyone entering thebuilding.The second stage of the research aimed at gettingfeedback on problems that people faced in general inthe Efteling toilets, with an emphasis on their emotionalexperience (fig 2).Figure 2. Interviews in situation (Efteling). Use ofemoticon based cards for interviewsFigure 1. Generative session with children and therefurbished flush.
2This exercise gave a realistic picture of the habitsof ‘people clusters’ visiting the Efteling. For example agroup with 5 children had to go to the loo most often aseach child would want to go to the loo only at the lastminute, the nursing mothers preferred to use thehandicap loo as it was bigger and could fit a pram, theyounger boys used toilet cubicles instead of the urinalsfor ergonomic reasons, children often spoke to theirparents from inside the cubicles to assure them of theirpresence,Often people had to wait for a member if he/she had togo to the loo. All such factors were recorded and usedin generate concept ideas.3. RESEARCH FINDINGSThe recorded sessions and interviews were made intotranscripts and additional field observations added tothem. The transcripts were divided amongst theresearchers and statements and insights sortedindividually (by way of statement cards); these werelater brought together (triangulation exercise) andclustered into prominent subthemes. The resultant infographics was a map of relevant feelings, concerns andbehaviors in the interaction between people and people,people and objects, people and environment in contextof the Efteling loo (fig 3). In addition, five basicstereotypical visitor clusters of Efteling were identifiedand represented as ‘group personas’.Figure 3. Info-graphics for the toilet interaction system.Out of the interactions mapped, a few problem areascame out as being quite widespread, these were pickedup to be worked on. The concerns chosen included thefeeling of claustrophobia, fear and a feeling ofinsecurity (especially for children), awkwardness withstrangers, waiting queues and the underlying privacyissues.4. CONCEPTS4.1 CONCEPT 1: Permeable SpaceThe concept aims at removing the feeling ofclaustrophobia by proposing a virtual expansion of thespace in the loo (fig 4).The loo wall is sensitive to human presence andmovement, and goes transparent (invisible) at the spot aperson is standing. The more the number of peopleinside the loo, the more transparent its walls get(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBzc9YoKB9Q).This results in a virtual expansion of space (arisingfrom this permeable vision). An evaluation sessionindicated that giving a ‘real time’ transparency effectwould compromise privacy. Rather, an element of playneeded to be added to the concept so as to be perceivedas simulated and not compromise the users’ sense ofcontrol over their surroundings. One of the conceptiterations suggested in the sessions was the adding ofsightings of Efteling creatures to this vision effect. Butthe characters that the users suggested were toostereotypically gender specific (the boys wanteddragons, the girls princesses and ponies).In the final concept, to preserve the feeling of privacythe effect of transparency occurred with a seasonal timegap - if it was summer, it would show the scene outsideas being winter.The footage seen outside by this effectis taken from the security camera archives of Efteling.Figure 4. Concept – Permeable space.4.2 CONCEPT 2: Privacy gradientThe concept pin points the cause for the psychologicaldiscomfort and awkwardness of people in public loos asthe infringement of their ‘concept of privacy’. Anindication of which is the avoidance of eye contact andconversation between strangers in loos.Figure 5. Concept – Privacy gradient.
3The proposed loo creates a privacy gradient in the toiletspace, such that the transition (human movement) froma public street to a private loo cubicle is gradual and notabrupt. This gradual change is brought about by socialspaces (that encourage communication, sharedexperience) and visual transparency (relatingtransparent spaces as public and opaque spaces as beingprivate) as buffering agents to achieve this interaction.The social space is a semi-private area that you enterfirst, where you can refer way-finding information,maps, read notices or just rest for a while. It followsfrom the pattern of the ‘central courtyards’ seen inmulticultural community architecture. Apart from beinga privacy buffer (like the drawing room in a home), itencourages a community feeling such that theoccupants can feel more comfortable with others andthemselves.This central social hub (watch walkthrough movie-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn3OxBCxyfQ)also provides shelter for waiting queues and demarcatesa safe zone for the children while their parents are in theloo.CONCLUSIONAt a home a toilet is considered as a private area, and isoften decked with personal articles and accessories,similarly a public loo can be philosophically consideredas a private part of the city. The level of comfort thatthe people in a city feel in using a public loo hassomething to say about their community spirit.The concept of privacy depends on many factorsincluding culture, sex, age and other contexts. In asituation where people are comfortable with their own‘dirt’ yet are repelled by a public toilet because it isused by many others. The issue of perceived hygienecan be useful to study further to design better publicloos.Through the two example solutions it is hoped thatmore attention would be invested in the design of publicloos in future. Making them more comfortable andnovel so as to become an important ‘shared’ experiencein a community.AcknowledgementsMany thanks for the Efteling design team for theiradvice.Thanks to my tutors Marijke Melles and Mark vanhuystee. And the coordinators of the course exploringinteractions – Pieter Desmet and Stella boess.I kindly acknowledge the participating schools,children, and parents and thank all colleagues for theirsupport..REFERENCES1. Feltham Frank et al (2007). Designing tangibleartefacts for playful interactions anddialogues. DPPI 2007. ACM, New York, NY,pp 61-752. Costello, B. and Edmonds, E. (2007). A studyin play, pleasure and interaction design. DPPI2007. ACM, New York, NY, pp76-91.3. De Jongh Hepworth, S. (2007). Magicalexperiences in interaction design. DPPI 2007.ACM, New York, NY, pp 108-1184. Lenay, C. et al (2007). Designing the groundfor pleasurable experience. DPPI 2007. ACM,New York, NY, pp 35-58.5. Mathieu A. Gielen (2007). Whats on a childsmind: Contextmapping research for designersinspiration. Ludic Engagement Designs ForAll conference 2007.6. E. B.-N. Sanders. (2000) Generative Tools forCoDesigning. Published in a book calledCollaborative Design, Scrivener,Ball andWoodcock (Eds.) Springer-Verlag LondonLimited.7. Wensveen Stephan et al (2004). Freedom offun, freedom of interaction. Interactions 11(5).pp59-61.8. Alexander, Christopher, Ishikawa, Saraand Silverstein, Murray (1977): A PatternLanguage. Oxford University Press.