Throughout history, bathrooms evolved and changed significantly with the development of new civilizations, cultures, and ideas. Early populations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and China took advantage of natural geographical terrain, designing cities and homes around watersheds and using the flow of rivers and steam as plumbing to take all waste away. For these cultures, nature was their bathroom. As later civilizations developed, so did their designs of bathrooms. Roman, Greek, and Arab cultures created a new typology of the toilet called the bathhouse. Large public bathrooms served all with opportunities to wash up, relieve oneself, socialize, and relax. Shared bathrooms were popular destinations like modern-day coffee shops where people share ideas, meet old friends, and discover new ones. In the Middle Ages, with population growth, the need for sanitation and sewage networks rose exponentially. Cities and towns did not build this infrastructure, forcing people to construct and design bathrooms individually. This period essentially birthed the modern bathroom.
Activity 1 – Bathrooms Around the World
Today, bathrooms are different based on what part of the world you are in. Take a look at bathrooms around the world to see the wide variety of offerings. In Japan, you may find a bathroom detached from the main house and on the ground level. In high-rise apartment buildings, the Japanese stack the plumbing of small bathrooms with soaking tubs, sinks, and toilets. Countries around the world classify bathrooms differently. Great Britain, New Zealand, and China consider a bathroom with a tub or a shower. In the U.S, a toilet and a sink constitute a half bath. Bathrooms are created functionally, with ease of maintenance and privacy. Modern bathrooms develop a unique character using colors, finishes, fixtures, and materials. Even though bathrooms may be one of the smallest rooms in the house, they are often the most expensive and challenging to design and renovate.
Activity 2 – Compact Bathrooms
Compact bathrooms make good use of small spaces, are usually located in a more public part of a house or building, and only contain two fixtures. These fixtures allow guests to use the toilet and wash up without entering private areas of the home like bedrooms. Can you guess the two institutions used? These types of bathrooms are designed to make the best use of space. There are several design strategies to do this, such as making the door open outward to save on interior bathroom space or painting the walls instead of tiling to create more usable interior space. Adding mirrors or a window to a private garden or view of nature creates a more open feel. Placing fixtures side by side on the same wall efficiently organizes the intake and flushing plumbing pipes. These small bathrooms are called half-bathrooms or powder rooms. Half-Baths offer more privacy to homeowners as they are typically used by visitors and guests, leaving full baths as more personal private space.
Activity 3 – Medium Sized Baths
The medium-sized bath is the most common type today. Often called a full bathroom, they have all three fixtures- a toilet, sink, shower, and/ or tub. The full bathroom offers everything you need in a relatively small space, typically no smaller than 40 SQ FT. Standard full bath dimensions are 5’ x 8’ and 6’ x 6’. What are the dimensions of your bathroom at home? Measure with a yardstick or ruler, then draw a plan at 1" = 1’ scale, including the fixtures and walls. Review the layout of your bathroom and analyze whether it is effective. If you think your bathroom is well designed, draw and submit its plan to the gallery. If it is not, redraw the plan but rearrange the placement of the fixtures. Were you able to make a more successful design for your bathroom at home? If so, upload it to the gallery!
Activity 4 – Open/Large Bathrooms
Large bathrooms are fully equipped in spacious square footage layouts. They also usually use more expensive finishes. Often called “en suite” or an attached bathroom, it opens directly into the primary bedroom and is commonly used only by the residents. Usually, a door provides entry from the bedroom to the bathroom, but there are layouts without doors that join the bedroom to the bath into one grand space. Half, two-thirds, or whole partitions create spaces within the bedroom within this larger space. These designs partition house the privacy of a toilet or a garden/outside. Linen closets, or shelves, offer areas to store fresh towels, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Sometimes mirrors or cabinets open up to keep vitamins, medicines, brushes, ointments, and lotions to enhance the cleaning and caring of people. Large bathrooms often have double sinks, walk-in showers, whirlpool tubs, window seats, or seating areas with small tables for refreshments and/or even books or magazines to read. Large baths are destination family rooms for families with children. Draw the plan for a large, family-friendly bathroom.
Activity 5 – FIXTURES
Modern Bathrooms offer a sink or sinks, a toilet and/or toilet and bidet, a shower, and/or a bath. The color and design of these fixtures and their faucets, knobs, etc. contribute to the character, mood, and design language of the bathroom.
Activity 6 – Finishes
Bathrooms are typically wet rooms or spaces where water is abundant in the appliances and possible splashing on surfaces and floors. Make a MAterial board of possible materials for the floors, walls, and ceiling.
Activity 7 – Bathrooms With A garden
The opportunity to have a garden view from a bathroom is exceptional. It is also very personal. Some individuals may feel more comfortable with complete privacy of closed doors, no, covered or opaque windows; others may yearn for fresh air, views of the sky, trees, outdoors.
Activity 8 – Bathrooms With A View
In some homes, hotels, and apartment buildings, bathrooms may have access to a garden, waterfront, or city view. The expansion of the bathroom experience with an expansive view offers access to daylight, sunlight, and the ever-changing canvas of the sky, sunlight, colors, weather moods, seasons, and city lighting.
Activity 9 – BATHROOMS For All
Take a look at Global Wash Facts to see how many people in the world lack access to clean drinking water, access to sanitized hand washing water, and lack access to toilets. One in four people lacks access to a toilet and globally, 46% of people do not have access to safely-managed sanitation. Having bathrooms and a safe place to wash hands is very important to human health, especially women and children who often are the ones who must travel to collect water. All people deserve bathrooms in their schools and in their homes as well. Take action on World Toilet Day, November 19, to raise awareness of the importance of access to clean water and bathrooms for people’s health.