Designer’s Interview 02

In pursuit of a ‘toilet like a gallery’ that brings smiles to one and all.

GALLERY TOTO, the product of one and a half years of work. Developed around the concept of 'a toilet like a gallery', surrounded by glass on three sides, and boasting the Japan-first use of LED monitors (luminous textiles) this project contained a lot of firsts. To get an inside view of this challenging project, we spoke to the architects responsible for the design and the senior manager from TOTO who was responsible for the project.

  • Astrid Klein

    Architects at Klein Dytham architecture (KDa)Astrid Klein

  • Mark Dytham

    Architects at Klein Dytham architecture (KDa)Mark Dytham

  • Mitsuaki Hashida

    Media Development Department, Senior Manager (Planning) at TOTOMitsuaki Hashida

“The creator of the images streaming near the outer wall is Yasuyuki Tamenaga of black*bath. Right from the start, you can get an image of his comical world view.”

Mark Dytham (MD):
“I We’ve known him for fifteen years, we like his irreverent attitude”
MD:
“One of the main dancers from the contemporary dance group that is dancing in the images, ‘The Rare Mushroom Dance Troupe’, is also a friend. They do award-winning contemporary dance performances around the world.”
Mitsuaki Hashida (MH):
“Mr. Tamenaga, Mr. Dytham, Ms. Klein, and all the members of the dancers, you all seem to get alongwell.”
The actors of the images, “The Rare Mushroom Dance Troupe.”
Filming at the studio. The profile displayed in the front is Mr. Tamenaga.
Astrid Klein (AK):
“We trust Tamenaga, and he trusts the dance group. Through this chain of trust, we were able to complete that image, ‘Toilet Life’.”
MH:
“I went by the studio during the filming. It started before noon, and didn’t finish until ten at night. It took more than ten hours. The performance was interesting, and just how many times did the shutter click?”
AK:
“The Rare Mushroom Dance Troupe is truly amazing. And so witty! ”
MH:
“Going forward, I think it would be good if we switch out the images to match the season or an event. Especially with the Tokyo Olympics coming up, we should add a new version. I think we should request filmmaker Mr. Tamenaga with things like sports that have continuity. Actually, we already have a swimming version and the like, but I’m really looking forward to the next one.”
MD:
“Tennis or basketball have that sort of feeling to them.”
AK:
“People exercising in the bathroom might also be good.”
MH:
“Doing backflips and the like. I want to do something like that.”

“One of the glass panes that surrounds the space is quite big. The video cannot be disrupted midway through. It produces the seamless image of a glass box on the exterior.”

MH:
“The maximum size of one pane is 2500x2230m. They are two 12mm-thick panes glued together for a total thickness of 24mm. The truth is, since we are using the same kind of glass as for the exterior of sky bridge, it’s extremely strong.
While it was brought in during the construction, it took many workers, taking the utmost care, to install it.”
AK:
“Amazing! I was wondering the whole time how something of that size,could be installed. Apparently it can! It’s a good thing that we used the same kind of glass at Gallery Toto.”
MH:
“Because we are portraying an image of a glass box, I wanted to use the biggest sized glass that we could. Of course, there was also the means of bringing it in and the budget to think about, but I wanted to provide the largest glass possible to meet Mr. Dytham and Ms. Klein’s image.”

“By the way, can I ask you, what part of the process of creating this project left the biggest impression on you?”

MD:
“For me, it was the things connected to Luminous Textiles. Whether it was the fire law, the cost, or problems with size, someone always seemed to find something negative about it (big laugh). Nevertheless, my desire to incorporate it never wavered.”
AK:
“For a while, Mark would say, ‘If we don’t have this, I won’t go to any meetings. (laughs).”
MD:
“Coming from twenty years of experience, having someone tell you that your work is no good is the worst.”
AK:
“That’s true. We want to do something that has no precedent. We want to think about the uniqueness of each and every project. It’s a challenge, but if we don’t try to push the boundaries, it won’t produce any newsworthy PR value. Places that are ‘just’ beautiful are pretty much the norm in Japan. Moreover, in order to be able to get our next interesting project, we have to bear in mind that creating something normal is a no-go. There is no need to ask us to do something that anyone else can do. For us, balancing the budget and technical problems are a given every time. However, if we work hard to overcome these issues, which of course is not easy, the gratification we get afterwards is manyfold. It’s addictive. (laughs).”
MH:
“If you can’t overcome this hurdle, there is no feeling of accomplishment, right!?”
AK:
“Once you have an idea of what to do, it becomes easy not to give up.”
MH:
“I have worked with many architects, but no matter who they are, they all have some kind of fixation and will persist upon it till the end. It is common for many known professionals to get the impression that completing a large construction framework means the job is finished, but the truth is, fussing about minute details leads to something good.”
AK:
“That's right. We pay attention to all the small details. However, visitors cannot differentiate.”
what is architectures, what is interior and what is furniture. For the visitor it all combines into one seamless picture. It is therefore important to care about, right down to the smallest detail.
The middle stages of construction.
Left picture)February, 2015. A photo commemorating the installation of the glass and the foundation of the booth.
Right picture)Explaining the construction of the Hydro Cera Wall that is being used inside of the booth.
MH:
“If I look at it objectively, I would have to say that the most impressive thing was the moment when Mark and Ms. Klein saw the very first test lighting of the Luminous Textile. They looked so happy at that very moment!”
AK:
“It was like Christmas!”
MD:
“It was far more beautiful than I thought it would be. The images projected upon the Luminous Textile were out of focus. Since natural light gets into the area around Gallery Toto and the lighting is bright, I was a little worried about whether or not the images could be seen well.”
AK:
“It was pitch black when we did the test lighting, so it wasn’t a problem then, but I was really worried about what it would look like daytime. But, once I realized that the images could be seen clearly during the daytime too, I was relieved.”
MD:
“At that time, even all the construction workers watched it, right? That made me happy.”
AK:
“Finishing the project and making so many people smile is the thing that brings me satisfaction the most.”
Test projection of the unique, colorful images that gush forth.
Left picture)March, 2015. Mr. Tamenaga, Mr. Hashida, Ms. Klein, and Mr. Dytham watching over the test projection of the Luminous Textile.
Right picture)Projecting from the Luminous Textile that run along the outer walls.

“How about the indicator in front of the booth? It’s your first time to try that too, right?”

MH:
“Once you enter the booth, the light changes from blue to red. It increases every thirty seconds and reaches its max at ten minutes. After that, it starts flickering (laughs).”
AK:
“It’s as if it’s telling you to hurry up and get out (laughs)! It’s like it knows people are waiting outside and the same system was installed inside as well. We want people to take their time making their way out, but there are some people who just need to be reminded that there might be others.”
MH:
“We thought that this system would be a witty way to deal with waiting lines. During the planning, there were some that thought we did not have to go this far, but of course we did not want to give up on it. Along with the images streaming on the outer walls, the time indicator gives a strong impression of a toilet space.”
The indicator that shows your length of stay in the booth.
The indicator on the door side turns red when you enter the room (above). It progresses as time goes by (below).

“One more question (laughs). I was surprised at how extremely simple the explanation on operating the remote control was, but....”

MH:
“Right. In order not to make the explanation too excessive and not to plaster up too much wallspace with explanations, Ms. Klein, and her colleagues, studies a simple design. In order to allow people to grasp the explanation easily, we requested it after making all those opposed fully aware that it was a suitable risk to our company.”
AK:
“With washlets in public buildings, there are too many explanations, thus making them conversely hard to understand, and in the end ignored all together. Disregarding the architectural space, we wanted to improve on the method of affixing a sticker to it. So, in order to make it simple and easy to understand, we joined the same size plates together, and unified the area around the remote control, as well as the space, with the same design language. However, it must have been difficult for Mr. Hashida and his colleagues within their company.”
MH:
“The languages included English, Chinese, and Korean, in addition to Japanese and the explanation only included ‘stop’, ‘buttocks’, and ‘flush’. When we tried to stand up to criticism from within the company, we got some surprising reactions, such as ‘Great.’, ‘Nothing wrong with that.’, and, ‘This is just fine.’. We also had to be careful not to undervalue the sensitivity of our engineering staff.”
The area around the simplified remote control.
Explanation on how the remote control only has five kinds of operations and how the lower plate has three languages.

“How do you want visitors to enjoy Gallery Toto?”

AK:
“I want them to come without expectations whatsoever and to enjoy the space with an open mind. If they start to compare it to normal toilets, I wonder if perhaps many complaints will start to come out. Things like, ‘Where should I line up?’, ‘Others don’t seem to be coming out.’, and, ‘Why do the booths seem to be become so annoying, one by one?’(laughs).”
MH:
“There are also some people who want to understand the reasons, since it is there first time to encounter this space.”
AK:
“So, to avoid this situation, I want people to realize from the start that this is a gallery. And then there will be the curious visitor. This is good. Generally speaking, they will look and enjoy. That’s it. Of course, the truth is that this is a special toilet space that they have never seen before, but....”
MD:
“It might be something they have never seen before, but it’s timeless. It’s not a fashionable interior.”
AK:
“To an extent, we are doing a fairly simple thing with this space. So, we want visitors to feel comfortable and then connect that experience to the Toto brand. If they take away a good experience, then when they go to buy a toilet, they will no doubt choose a Toto toilet, no?”

“Though you met frequently over the time it took the project to complete, it seems that Mr. Hashida only found out something on the opening day of Gallery Toto.”

MH:
“It’s the picture being used on the wall. Mt. Fuji, a waterfall, and a heart-shaped island: the variation is extensive and which point of view you chose was quietly a mystery. We trust in Ms. Klein and Mr. Dytham’s sense, so we just roughly conveyed our wish for ‘something connected to water’. In another interview on the day of the opening, I heard Ms. Klein say, ‘That’s a picture of places that I want to go.’, and realized what she meant.”
AK:
“Let me add to that explanation a little (laughs). What we chose was, of course, related to water, such as the ocean, rivers, lakes and waterfalls as a prerequisite. But from there, we also included the characteristics of Narita, as well as images of traveling. We chose pleasant pictures of places that are quiet like a bathroom, and make you feel like you want to go there when you catch sight of them. Since this is Japan, I wanted to somehow include Mt. Fuji, but because it had to have water in the picture we chose one with Lake Kawaguchiko in front of it”
MH:
“It might be surprising, but we didn’t tell them to do that. We requested that they freely select what they wanted, because we thought we shouldn't ask such unsophisticated questions (laughs).”

Finally, could you tell us about your current feelings?

MH:
“Now that Gallery Toto has been completed and has opened without any problems, it’s a little sad to see the stressful, yet enjoyable days of planning, as well as the days of on-site fighting, come to an end.”
AK:
“I think there are still many places where stylish bathrooms need to be made. Moreover, I want to try my hand at a fresh, new project.”
MD:
Alright, let's talk about it! (laughs).

Coverage:Aki sukegawa, Picture:Daisuke Ohki

MOVIE

Video of the main contruction work from January to March 2015