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I hate them.
September 20, 2011 2:26 PM   Subscribe

At some of the older buildings on my campus the men's room has a very strange design to the urinals. They are sort of soup-bowl in shape (a gross analogy, I agree), there are no dividers between them, and unless you take steps to prevent it your equipment is fairly visible to anyone who walks in the door as you're using them. This seems odd to me. I think the buildings that they're in were built in the 70s or 80s... is there a design reason / philosophy behind the worst bathrooms I've ever used in my life?

As an aside, every toilet in the building is on a light sensor w/ no option for manual flush, leading to very gross and uncomfortable bathroom conditions overall. It boggles my mind that anyone ever thought any part of it was a good idea, so I was hoping the hive mind might be able to point me to whatever backwards school of thought conceived of this as a good idea.
posted by codacorolla to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
On a lot of those sensors there is a manual button on the top. You can press that for a fresh flush.

On the type of urinals you describe there is often a privacy curtain on each side. These were made of marble. I've seen these taken out and replaced with metal ones. I've also seen them not replaced or never there.

You could report them to the building services and se if your concerns are addressed. Sounds more like they aren't cleaned properly.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:34 PM on September 20, 2011


On a lot of those sensors there is a manual button on the top. You can press that for a fresh flush.

This is the case for newer light-sensored facilities on campus, but not an option on these.

On the type of urinals you describe there is often a privacy curtain on each side. These were made of marble. I've seen these taken out and replaced with metal ones. I've also seen them not replaced or never there.

Not even signs that there was something there that'd been replaced.
posted by codacorolla at 2:36 PM on September 20, 2011


It's possible that these are former women's restrooms. Are the bowls at knee height and oblong? From the 1930s to the 60s, some restrooms in the US were designed with female urinals (lift skirt, straddle).

Straight dope on the topic.
posted by zippy at 2:49 PM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


As an aside, every toilet in the building is on a light sensor w/ no option for manual flush, leading to very gross and uncomfortable bathroom conditions overall. It boggles my mind that anyone ever thought any part of it was a good idea, so I was hoping the hive mind might be able to point me to whatever backwards school of thought conceived of this as a good idea.

Block the sensor from the overhead to get a fresh flush you don't need to actually touch anything.

posted by kanemano at 2:53 PM on September 20, 2011


Hey great -- another thread from the mens room!

I see by your profile you're in College Park. Back in the day, the mens rooms of Byrd Stadium all had trough urinals (Google image search). These used to be far more common; guess Real Men didn't really mind if other men saw their equipment. In fact, there's an amusing chapter in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex which claims most men standing at adjacent urinals are checking each other out, on the sly, because Size Matters.

But having a bashful bladder, I feel your pain.
posted by Rash at 3:39 PM on September 20, 2011


Dividers cost money and waste space. They also need to be cleaned from the splashback. Comfort and privacy at the urinal is something of a modern concept.

How old are you? I'm in my 30's and I remember pissing in troughs in elementary and middle school. If anything, your urinal is a step up from the trough system.

Design philosophy? Again, its probably just cost. With a system like this you need just one pipe and a much simpler install. Also more men can pee at the same time. Win-win for efficiency, lose-lose for privacy/shyness.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:49 PM on September 20, 2011


Well, it's not a trough. It's a bunch of lady-urinals (thanks zippy). I suppose cheapness is the overriding deciding factor here. Our building isn't high priority for funding, it seems to me.
posted by codacorolla at 4:02 PM on September 20, 2011


At Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, they used to have troughs out in the middle of the room so the guys faced each other to pee. At least that's how I remember it, but it was a long time ago.

Anyway, it sounds like the urinals at Union Station in Toronto are similar to what you are describing... I have no idea what the rational for the design might be, though the female urinal re-purposed sounds plausible.
posted by Chuckles at 4:28 PM on September 20, 2011


I was in an older building in Oakland/Berkeley California (at San Pablo btwn Haskell and Folger), and the warehouse floors had a men's room urinal that was a huge circular trough, like a fountain in the middle of the men's room. Can't remember is there was a low step around it, so that one could hoist oneself up to. Probably eight or more guys could stand around the thing. Presumably it was large enough to accommodate a break in the work day.

There is something like it in the men's restroom scene in The Cook, the Thief, the Wife, and her Lover.
posted by Prince_of_Cups at 4:43 PM on September 20, 2011


This site has lady urinal photos and a vintage how-to-use instructional sticker.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:26 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Being as I work in the Facilities Management department for my local university, how about you contact yours with your concerns. Perpetually dirty restrooms need to go to both the Building Services folks (custodial staff, cleaning em up) and the Plumbing and Carpentry folks (Operations Maintenance, better fixtures and dividers for the urinals). We may seem like this monolithic entity, but most folks are pretty helpful and want real problems fixed. They may not know that there's a real problem going on here, and that it needs some patching up.

We've almost got rid of all of our bowl urinals here too. Only a few left in really old buildings that haven't had renovations in a while.
posted by deezil at 8:55 PM on September 20, 2011


I'm thinking maybe they weren't former women's restrooms, but maybe used repurposed women's toilet hardware. Those are definitely the urinals that I despise, but they definitely aren't cordoned off (as the other pictures show). I think I might look at the university archives at some point when I have free time (hah) to try to get to the bottom of this. If anyone else has contributions though, I'm more than happy to hear them.
posted by codacorolla at 8:57 PM on September 20, 2011


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