Museum Toilets: Inconvenience or Opportunity?

The Raffeiner Orchid World near Bolzano (Italy) has a themed toilet among the normal ones (photo Paolo Cocco)

Museum toilets are seldom mentioned in Museum guidebooks — shame, because they’re one of the places most visitors go, and often feature in their reviews if they’re dirty or unpleasant.

On the other hand, some museums are finally realizing toilets are much more than just places for performing not so noble functions: they can be used for promotion, identity reinforcement, fun, even a little culture… in other words, they’re an opportunity!

Being passionate about human centered design,we see everywhere elements of User Experience, so we couldn’t miss studying also this aspect of the museum experience. In the last two years we’ve been collecting images of intereting museums toilets around the world, taken by us and by friends who started sending us images of museum toilets. We’ll be grateful for every image we will receive from you…

The wonderful Soane Museum in London has a vintage bathroom fitted with accessories perfectly consistent with the general style of the house.
The Art Nouveau Museum in Riga, Latvia, has an elegant themed signage for its toilets.
Guggenheim in New York featured for a few months a golden toilet by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan as a temporary art installation in 2016. Users were allowed to use it under strict surveillance. In 2018, Polish fiber and knitwear artist Olek made a guerrilla installation by completely enveloping a toilet in gold yarn.
Museum of London: following pub traditions, exhibition and events are promoted in the toilets
Automobile Museum in Turin: taps resemble mechanical pieces, consistent with Museum collections
La Scala Museum in Milan: toilet doors wink to Opera characters (photo Marika Molteni)
Faraday Museum in London: a giant photo inspires bathgoers
MUDEC museum in Milan: toilet signage reminds users of the athropological collection of the museum.
Victoria and Albert Museum of London: an artwork by Felice Varini in the female toilets (photo Maria Chiara Scuderi)
Victoria and Albert Museum (London): also at the V&A there are also vintage bathrooms in perfect style (photo @CuratedJenny from Instagram)
Triennale Museum in Milan: toilets show the design the museum and the city are famous for.
British Library in London: colourful toilets.
Design Museum in London: less is more.
MACRO contemporary art museum in Rome: Escheresque effects in the female toilets (photo Maria Chiara Scuderi)
Bunkart 2 in Tirana: it is an historical museum about Albanian Security Police (Sigurimi) set in a bunker. Its Toilet facilities are basic and slightly inhuman as you would expect from such an environment.
Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre (TAEC) in Luang Prabang (Laos): toilets are used as both didactic and marketing tools (photo Kristy Best)
RuhrTriennale is an arts and music festival in Germany set in a post industrial land. Their toilets match the spirit (photo Anna Heimbrock)
NASA: A Human Adventure is a touring exhibition featuring themed toilet signs (photo Marika Molteni)
Stasi Museum in Berlin: here you can use the actual toilet facilities the Communist Secret Police were using. Toilets have been renovated since then, but doors and sign are still the same. It’s more than a museum toilet: it is a toilet museum!
Saint Paul’s Catacombs in Rabat (Malta): finally an educational use of the museum toilets. While you use them, you learn how the Romans used them!
Maritime Museum in Tallinn: restrooms are consistently maritime-themed. (photo Sara Bragonzi)
Museum of London: cartoons on the walls make the queueing less boring and more informative (photo @Bethellisdesign from Instagram)
Maritiem Museum Rotterdam: Seamens’ toilets
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: An explosion of colours matching the museum collections. (photo @meissoun_dance from Instagram)
Ditchling Museum Of Art+Craft: in this creative museum visitors are encouraged to draw with chalks on blackboard doors in the bathrooms.

Museumgoers of the world, unite! Send us your photographs of interesting museum toilets, and let’s change museum toilets for the best!

InvisibleStudio - Human Centered Design Agency

Written by

InvisibleStudio co-founders, Stefania Boiano and Giuliano Gaia, have been working for 20 years in Cultural Innovation and Human Centered Design.

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