Urban Room: San Francisco Public Toilet + Kiosk Competition

This proposal for the competition for the redesign of the public restrooms and kiosks of San Francisco was a collaboration between The Open Workshop and Studio VARA. The team saw this competition as an opportunity to retool a critical social infrastructure to provide local specificity of use while creating a series of Urban Rooms. From restroom to washroom to bathroom to powder room, cultural distinctions name this space differently. What is agreed upon is that this is a room in the city. Both an urban room that reaches outwards and a reflective space for the individual, our scheme enables a range of uses and users to find their space in the city.


The genesis for this proposal derived from the article coauthored by Christopher Roach + Neeraj Bhatia in the Room Journal Issue 01: The Bathroom

The current restrooms act as hermetic objects that do not engage with their urban surroundings. Instead, we propose a porous object that welcomes the city and the plurality of its citizens to flow through this ‘Urban Room’.

Simultaneously, the present toilet, while designed to accommodate only the most basic sanitary services, offers a rare moment of privacy in city. The range of activities that transpire within this room go beyond its basic program; from changing, to praying, to breastfeeding, and being vulnerable, the toilet offers a room for the individual within the bustle of the city.


Amplifying this, we propose to extend this room and include both a garden and skylight to acknowledge this reflective space of privacy. Accordingly, our scheme erodes the object to create both an urban room as well as a space for the individual. Through an aggregated modular approach, these ‘mass-customized’ rooms are able to precisely engage a diverse series of sites. This modular approach is also applied to the kiosk, which is retooled into a sleeker form that accommodates a plurality of uses.


A series of abstracted roof profiles offer varying silhouettes to the project, harkening to a series of known sites in the city, and creating a timeless plural icon.


San Francisco



Competition team

The Open Workshop: Neeraj Bhatia
Studio VARA: Chris Roach, Ceasar Lopez, and Jared Clifton