New Spaceship-Like Toilets Win Contest For S.F. Streets

The design might change slightly, but eventually these new sleek, silver toilets will replace the outdated green ones.

A rendering of the new toilets that will eventually be installed across S.F. (Image: SmithGroupJJR)

Bid adieu to the old, green JC Decaux public toilets, because our city infrastructure is finally catching up to our sleek, tech-centric aesthetic. Public Works announced Monday that it has chosen a winner for its invitation-only competition to redesign the city’s toilets and kiosks. More than 200 responses from the community were submitted through an online survey, and a slew of city organizations reviewed the entries. 

In the end, SmithGroupJJR is the winner. A rendering of a structure (that may be a kiosk or a toilet, it’s unclear) shows a multipurpose facility, with planters and benches lining the edges, and a living garden on the roof. 

“The design blends sculpture with technology in a way that conceptually and literally reflects San Francisco’s unique neighborhoods,” stated SmithGroupJJR design Principal Bill Katz. “Together, the varied kiosks and public toilets will tell a sustainability story through water re-use and native landscapes.” 

It’s not a bad choice – the design closely matches the aesthetic of the new BART canopies, some of which are already under construction. And, the new toilet designs are way better than some of the other proposed options, which embraced an old-fashioned Brutalist aesthetic

Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru praised the design.“SmithGroupJJR’s design is forward-thinking, combining natural elements and environmental sustainability with modern technology and materials. This 21st-century street furniture reflects our San Francisco values, as we invest in a public realm designed with dignity, inclusivity, and beauty,” he said.

As for when they’ll be released? Don’t hold your breath. JCDecaux engineers will work closely with SmithGroupJJR over the next few months to refine the design to better accommodate operations and accessibility – which does imply that the aesthetic may still change a little. Once that process is complete, the project will be presented to the San Francisco Arts Commission and Historic Preservation Committee for their review.

Hopefully, that extra care and attention mean we’ll get something long-lasting, as the expectation from the city is that these new facilities will be used for the next 20 years. In a city that can barely keep its escalators running, expecting toilets to remain visually attractive and functional is a lofty aspiration, but we wish them luck. 

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