Monday 24 March 2008

Dulles Toilets Display Solid Use of Reflection

Dulles International Airport
1 Aviation Circle
Washington, DC USA

Where is it?

By Gate B28. The toilets are just beyond it, heading towards the higher-numbered gates.

What's it like?

Airport bathrooms can be hit or miss, especially at larger facilities like this one. I went in thinking it might be similar to some rest areas I'd visited recently -- smelly, a bit grimy, but functional overall. Thankfully, this Dulles spot topped all expectations. Clean, virtually no smell and perfectly serviceable.

This is a slim area, with a design that knows how to make its space very functional -- you'll see very little wasted space here. Along the left wall, you'll find a string of urinals, separated by shiny metallic dividers, and then a collection of four or five commode stalls, also separated by metallic walls. (Notice a theme here?) Across from the urinals, set into the wall some so as to amplify the space allotted for walking around, is a vanity area with four sink stations, each with automatic water faucets and automatic soap dispensers. The hand driers and towels hang on the wall to each side of the vanity.

Atmosphere-wise: It's a bit dim here in terms of lighting, but because of the many bits of shiny metal somehow the place seems brighter than it is -- an effect that seems due entirely to the reflection of light off those metallic dividers. Of course, that doesn't mean it's blindingly bright here, but still it's bright enough to keep the place from seeming murky. The only exception to this is the back stall, which is considerably darker compared to the rest of the place.

Also, there is no door to the bathroom here. Rather, people enter via a small hallway and head left or right, depending on their sex. As a result, visitors can hear a good deal of the walking traffic noise from outside. (Clearly, the designers here haven't perfected the Wynn's technique on this.) Still, once you've locked yourself in one of those dimly lit stalls to do your business, you don't feel very rushed at all. So they've got to be doing something right here, right?

Note: Sorry for the slightly blurry images here -- ever since the security measures at U.S. airports got more serious, I get nervous taking pictures there. So nearly all the shots here were taken with one eye on the camera and one eye on the door. (I don't want to be covering toilet conditions inside a jail.)

Marks out of 10:

8. A decent airport toilet that surprises you here and there with its simple design flourishes.

Comments to the Management:

An actual entrance door would be nice, but I could see how it might go against the overall design of the place. Airport toilets are for quick ins and outs, not long visits, and I understand this, but still one can hope...... Otherwise, consider adding (or better yet, reflecting) some more light on those stalls, just so the people using them can see a little better.

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