The Renaissance of the Restroom

A closer look at five projects redefining the common experience in this private space
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Sponsored by ASI Group and Scranton Products®
By Jeanette Fitzgerald Pitts
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The Port House

The Port House in Antwerp, Belgium, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), is a spectacular project that transformed a historic, albeit run-down, fire station into the new headquarters for the world’s fifth-largest port, the Port of Antwerp. In 2007, the offices of the Port of Antwerp had become too small and spread out. Staff was scattered across different buildings throughout the city. There was a need to find more office space and a wish to relocate to a place where technical and administrative services could be housed together. The old fire station on Mexico Island—a listed replica of a Hanseatic residence, ideally situated at the threshold between the city and its vast port—needed a change of use to ensure its preservation so it was selected as the site for the new headquarters.

Photo courtesy of ASI Group

The Port House, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, contains sophisticated restrooms that complement the crisp lines and bold features of the structure while delivering an extraordinary experience in the space.

An architectural competition ensued with the goal of finding a design that captured the spirit of the city. “There was only one rule laid down in the architectural competition, namely that the original building had to be preserved,” says Marc Van Peel, president of the Port of Antwerp.

The winning design, submitted by ZHA, masterfully combined the 16th century architectural style of the original firehouse with a contemporary expansion clad in shining, rippling glass that seems to float above it, an homage to Antwerp’s moniker as the city of diamonds. Completed in 2016, the building houses activity-based and open-plan office spaces for up to 600 workers with related areas that include: restaurants, meeting rooms, and an auditorium. “The new Port House will be a proud landmark for Antwerp,” says Hilde Crevits, Flemish minister of transport and public works. “The striking design will give Antwerp a wonderful architectural jewel that matches its position and importance as a world port.”

While the design and story of the Port House inspires any number of conversations, this course begs the question, “What do the restrooms look like in a building like that?”

The Sophisticated Restrooms in the Port House

A building that seemingly defies gravity and tantalizes people outside and inside with its extraordinary curb appeal, interiors, and exterior views would not offer a subpar restroom experience. In creating restrooms sophisticated enough to satisfy the design standards of the Port House, ZHA selected elegant, ultra-privacy, extra-height partitions adorned with stainless-steel hardware and coordinating stainless-steel restroom accessories. The crisp lines, bold hardware, and enhanced cubicles offer a beautiful restroom environment that delivers the highest level of privacy and functionality possible today.

Photo courtesy of ASI Group

The restroom compartments in the Port House were designed floor to ceiling to deliver a high-privacy experience, and some of the cubicles are all-inclusive, containing a toilet, sink, and drying station.

Ultra-Private Cubicles

The extra-height cubicles found in the Port House were custom designed to provide users with added privacy in the restroom. While high-privacy compartments typically feature doors up to 72 inches tall and panels up to 75 inches tall, these doors and panels were designed to run from the floor to the ceiling, creating a private enclosure for each patron. The floor-to-ceiling enclosures feature a custom insert that infills the opening that typically exists between the top of the partition and the ceiling when a standard partition product is used. Some of the cubicles were even designed to be all inclusive, containing a toilet, sink, and drying station.

These extra-height partitions are constructed of 13-millimeter-thick high-pressure laminate compact (HPL) material, which is antimicrobial, nonporous, water resistant, and impact and scratch resistant. The black door and panel system includes stainless-steel hardware to create a striking and modern aesthetic that complements the other interior spaces in the Port House.

Zero Sightlines

Beyond private, floor-to-ceiling enclosures, the partition system selected for the Port House prevents any sightline into or out of the stall. The zero-sightline solution features doors and pilasters designed with interlocking routed edges that create a physical overlap at the point of closure. The overlap fully obstructs any view into or out of the compartment, providing the private experience necessary in these most private spaces.

Stainless-Steel Accessories

The restrooms also feature high-quality stainless-steel accessories. The stainless-steel toilet tissue dispensers, hand dryers, paper towel dispensers, and waste receptacles further complement the bathroom decor and the distinct design of the building. Type 304 stainless steel was used to ensure durability and long-lasting elegance.


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Originally published in Architectural Record


The Renaissance of the Restroom
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