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City approves space-age toilet design

Public Works likes the look, but it’ll take more input from other departments to flush out potential problems

Rendering courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

In April, the SF Department of Public Works [DPW] narrowed the possible design for the city’s new public toilets—not necessarily the most pressing public issue but definitely an urgent one for most San Franciscans sooner or later—down to three finalists from three different design firms.

DPW then left it up to the city’s Civic Design Review and Architectural Review committees to pick a winner, and now SF Weekly reports that Detroit-based SmithGroupJJR got the nod for their sleek, strange, space-age pod design with living roofs.

SmithGroupJJR designers pushed a green-tech vibe with their offering, which includes both toilets and kiosks that they contend will accent any environment, writing in an April brief:

Trees levitating above the San Francisco urban landscape landmark much needed amenities while bettering the environment. [...] The new kiosks and ‘toileTREEs’ line contrastingly [sic] different neighborhoods from downtown’s concrete jungle to the multiple urban parks, enhancing each by reflecting the character of their surroundings. Adaptation of the structures are achieved through the materiality’s [sic] reflectivity and resilient surface.

In this case, “reflecting the character” seems like a literal reference in lieu of the pod’s shining silver outer scheme.

The plan is to eventually flush out the green, Parisian-style kiosk toilets that have serviced 25 citywide locales since 1995, but are often on the fritz and look increasingly old-fashioned in 21st century San Francisco. Only time will tell whether or not the Detroit pods will accent the city more appropriately and stand the test of time.

[Update: SmithGroupJJR’s Tyler Krehlik points out via Twitter than the team working on the SF designs are all San Franciscans.]

It also remains to be seen precisely what design will end up servicing the public needs, as the city’s Historic Preservation Committee and Arts Commission will have to put in their word on the new facilities before they’re ready to eventually set up shop (or pot) on the streets.