The Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

The Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin.

Glass bathrooms in Sulphur Spring, Texas.

Ground Kontrol video game arcade bar in Portland, Oregon.

The Garden State Plaza in New Jersey.

Viracocha in San Francisco.

The Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.

Tampa International Airport.

Sloan's Ice Cream in Florida.

At the Madonna Inn's Gold Rush Steak House in California.

2013-09-16

Co.Exist

These Are America's Best Public Bathrooms

A pixelated Pac-man floor, a bathtub full of stones, and floor to ceiling murals: Just a few of the design features that you can find in these free restrooms from around the country.

Some of the world’s sharpest minds have toiled away at the problem of how to make better toilets. Japan has a smart (yet hackable) one, while the Gates Foundation held a competition and eventually backed Caltech’s solar design. But apparently there’s another toilet important competition out there: a ranking of America’s best bathrooms.

Last week, Cintas, a corporation that provides businesses with all sorts of restroom supplies, first aid products, entrance mats, and other necessities, announced the finalists in its annual Best Restroom contest, as it has done for the past 12 years. There are nine finalists including a "Victorian bathtub full of stones," the Waldorf Astoria’s porcelain and marble surfaces, and the Tampa airport’s glass murals.

America has until October 31st to vote. In the meantime, it's worth considering that over a third of the world's population lacks access to safe sanitation. The United Nations has declared November 19 "World Toilet Day" as an awareness-raising exercise, and asks: "I give a shit, do you?" So while we're ogling the gold-studded, pink leather stalls at the Alex Madonna Gold Rush Steak House, think about what it would be like to not have a flushable toilet. This German Toilet Organization campaign from 2008 did a pretty effective job of that when it placed silhouettes of squatters with nowhere to go in Central Park. And this new toilet from the Gates Foundation may change how everyone—from the developing world to our own public toilets—uses this bathroom.

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