Archive for October, 2010

Bathroom Blogfest 2010 #3: Stuck in the doorway?

October 29, 2010

Thanks to Bathroom Blogfest 2010, I have an opportunity to share a series of photos that Beth took when we visited Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles last year. It took her so many twists and turns to get from the entrance of an upper-floor women’s restroom to the actual stalls that she was inspired (if that is the right word) to document the experience. Apologies for the blurry quality and varying exposure – these were taken quickly, during a break in the concert.

The entrance…








… leads into a sort of foyer, which leads, through a narrow door, into …






… a dark, narrow hallway, which leads to …








… a 180 degree turn into …








… a mirrored area with a counter, presumably for repairing makeup, checking appearance, etc. If you want an actual toilet, you have to proceed through a narrow passage on the right …





… which leads you, finally, as if in an overly long dream, to …







… the actual bathroom stalls. Note that the so-called handicapped stall is located farthest from the hallway.






There are several striking things about this restroom experience: the narrow doors, the inadequate lighting in some areas, the number of twists and turns — all hell for someone with mobility or balance problems, let alone in a wheelchair or using another assistive device — plus the time and distance from the entrance to the stalls. What’s even more striking is that this building was (famously, by Frank Gehry) designed and built in the first decade of the 21st century. It’s obviously an afterthought, crammed into available non-revenue-generating space. No one was thinking of restrooms as an integral part of the visitor experience at Disney Hall.

Stuck in the 60’s? Not exactly – but for someone using this particular women’s restroom, it would be all to easy to become stuck in a doorway.





More Bathroom Blogfest: clean, simple, 60s

October 29, 2010

Thanks to the folks at Results Revolution for listing my first Bathroom Blogfest post. They bring up some good points about restrooms as key places where the concept of visitor comfort can be extended or utterly neglected.

Another BB post linked from the same entry is from the Kitchen and Residential Design blog by Paul Anater. He notes that being “stuck in the 60s” (the theme of this year’s BB) isn’t necessarily a bad idea if you’re talking about bathrooms, and provides illustrations of some classic modernist, human-scale bathrooms from the early 60s that look as if they could have been designed today.

In that spirit, here’s a women’s restroom (photos by Beth) from Palazzo Grassi, the just-too-cool museum of minimalist, conceptual, and terminally hip art in Venice, Italy. As I noted in an earlier post, the seating in this museum is lacking, to say the least; but the restooms are clean (literally and design-wise), simple, and classic – completely in keeping with the White Cube look and feel of the museum.




In terms of access for people with mobility problems or in wheelchairs, they are a bit tight, however.


Bathroom Blogfest 2010: back to the 60s

October 25, 2010

Please Be Seated is pleased to join Bathroom Blogfest 2010, a week-long, web-wide series of blog posts devoted to, yes, bathrooms. Here’s a description of the event from the Bathroom Blogfest website:

“… bloggers from around the globe write about the importance of bathrooms in the customer experience. Their posts come from a wide range of perspectives that include sociology, marketing, research, psychology, environmental, customer experience, and user-experience design. The event was initiated in 2006.”

Since restrooms are essential to comfort in most public spaces — indoor ones, anyway — we’re happy to join the discussion.

This year’s theme, inspired by Mad Men, is “Stuck in the Sixties,” the idea being that many public-space bathroom experiences have not been improved in half a century or longer. Not to be contrarian, but here is a 60s style women’s restroom that has been adapted to our own century quite nicely (photo by Beth):

This is on the ground floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in a lobby area that was renovated (I believe) in the 60s. This restroom has the virtues of a 60s modernist space – straightforward access to all stalls as soon as you open the door, sufficient space between the stalls and the sinks, no awkward angles – updated with contemporary 21st century fixtures. The adjacent men’s room has pretty much the same layout. As usual, the Met does things right.

Please visit the entire roster of Bathroom Blogfest blogs:

Blogger Blog Name Blog URL
Susan Abbott Customer Experience Crossroads
Paul Anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Shannon Bilby Big Bob’s Outlet
Shannon Bilby Carpets N More Blog
Shannon Bilby Dolphin Carpet Blog
Shannon Bilby From The Floors Up
Shannon Bilby My Big Bob’s Blog
Toby Bloomberg Diva Marketing
Laurence Borel Blog Till You Drop
Bill Buyok Avente Tile Talk Blog
Jeanne Byington The Importance of Earnest Service
Becky Carroll Customers Rock!
Marianna Chapman Results Revolution
Katie Clark Practial Katie
Nora DePalma American Standard’s Professor Toilet
Nora DePalma O’Reilly DePalma: The Blog
Leigh Durst LivePath Experience Architect Weblog
Valerie Fritz The AwarepointBlog
Iris Garrott Checking In and Checking Out
Tish Grier The Constant Observer
Renee LeCroy Your Fifth Wall
Joseph Michelli Dr. Joseph Michelli’s Blog
Veronika Miller Modenus Blog
Arpi Nalbandian TILE Magazine Editor Blog
Maria Palma People 2 People Service
Reshma Bachwani Paritosh The Qualitative Research Blog
David Polinchock Polinchock’s Ponderings
Victoria Redshaw & Shelley Pond Scarlet Opus Trends Blog
David Reich My 2 Cents
Sandy Renshaw Around Des Moines
Sandy Renshaw Purple Wren
Bethany Richmond Carpet and Rug Institute Blog
Bruce Sanders RIMtailing Blog
Steve Tokar Please Be Seated
Carolyn Townes Becoming a Woman of Purpose
Stephanie Weaver Experienceology
Christine B. Whittemore Flooring The Consumer
Christine B. Whittemore Simple Marketing Blog
Christine & Ted Whittemore Smoke Rise & Kinnelon Blog
Christine B. Whittemore The Carpetology Blog
Linda Wright LindaLoo Build Business With Better Bathrooms

San Francisco Botanical Garden: Just Go Away?

October 17, 2010

Ever since the San Francisco Botanical Garden started charging admission to visitors who are not residents of San Francisco, there has been a dramatic drop in the overall number of visitors. It’s obvious that SF residents are staying away, even though they still get in free. Why?

Taking a leaf from Stephanie Weaver of Experienceology, Beth and I decided to look at the Botanical Garden entrance experience to see if it had somehow been made inherently unwelcoming. Are potential visitors being subtly prompted to turn around and go away?

When it was free, you could just walk in through a wide-open, welcoming gate. Now the gate is closed, and the first thing that greets you at the main entrance is a kiosk.

There is often a line, because even those who don’t pay have to stop and show San Francisco ID. When you get to the head of the line, the booth is dark, and the person inside is semi-invisible.

Welcome to Passport Control! May I see your papers?

Next to the booth there is only a narrow space through which to enter the garden. To the right of that is a fence.

Note the ugly construction cones (this is a garden?) and the sign forbidding you to do you pretty much everything.

How do you say “keep out” in Spanish, Chinese, and Russian? Of course, nothing says “afterthought” like paper and Scotch tape.

Hey, you kids, get off my lawn! Okay, I guess we will.

A clear, warm, windless day on a holiday weekend in San Francisco, not a cloud in the sky – and hardly a visitor in the Garden. Back when it was free, this lawn would have been dense with visitors, tranquilly enjoying the sun.

These stone benches, located in an especially warm corner of the garden, would have been crowded with people, many of them elderly.

Today, hardly a soul.

It’s pretty clear that in setting up an admission process for all visitors, whether or not they actually have to pay a fee, the San Francisco Botanical Society has managed to discourage people in general from visiting their now exclusive-seeming garden.

They couldn’t have done it better if they had planned it that way.

For infrared vision only: really terrible exhibit labels

October 15, 2010

When we visited Venice, the 2010 international Architecture Biennale was under way. We weren’t that impressed with the exhibits themselves, which were mostly self-promotional, self-congratulatory, and/or superficial offerings from dozens of leading architecture firms and many nations.

We were impressed, in a way, with some really, really bad labels. As in totally unreadable.

Ridiculously faint, no? Pale tan on white. But it gets worse. Next to it is an even more unreadable label.

Do not adjust your browser – there is text there, to the left of the tan text: off-white on white, in a smaller face.

In contrast, so to speak, there were standard black on white labels at a nearby exhibit —  but no light by which to read them.

Yes, there is a label there, to the right. This is not an underexposed image — that was pretty much the ambient light level. No flashlights were provided.

Here’s another one.

In this case, your eye adjusted to the brighter light in the background, rendering the darkened label in the foreground a blur.

These labels serve as reminders that even highly paid, extensively educated design professionals can design, or approve, or at least be associated with designs that are downright laughable in their hostility to humans and human comfort.

Worst Seating Award: Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy

October 12, 2010

Palazzo Grassi is a museum of contemporay art in Venice, Italy. From the outside, it’s a classic Venetian palazzo fronting on the Grand Canal. The interior has been extensively remodeled into a series of classic White Cubes displaying a major collection of minimalist and conceptual art.

Here is a photo of the only seating in the whole place:

That’s it: two padded cubes in one room of a huge five floor museum. A grim denial of the frailty, or even existence, of the human body. Talk about suffering for Art.

On the other hand, there wasn’t a lot of competition for these cubes. We were two of only about a dozen visitors in this heavily promoted museum – in a city that gets tens of thousands of tourists a day.

Venice, Italy: City as Museum

October 5, 2010

The city of Venice can be overwhelming. It’s visually stunning in ways I did not expect from descriptions and photos.

Its setting on a lagoon lends it a downright luxurious sense of light and space.

And, with no motor vehicles or even bicycles present anywhere, it’s a city made for walking, strolling, and sitting.

Of course, tourists are everywhere, crowding the ancient streets, many of which are now lined with tacky shops rather than practical stores selling day-to-day goods for the vastly outnumbered residents. And from an accessibility perspective, Venice can be tough.  There are countless bridges crossing canals of all sizes, which means you’re out of luck if you are mobility impaired. 

However, one thing Venice does have is places to sit. Plenty of them.

There are church steps everywhere, and benches, and wharves, and steps leading down to water, and just plain inviting spaces with stunning views (and quirky contemporary art).

Turn a corner, and you’ll find yourself in a small, quiet square.

This particular square, like many Venetian spaces, featured a lovely public amenity: a fountain with drinking water.

With its layout and most of its architecture basically unchanged since around the 18th century, Venice gives meaning to the overused term “human scale.” It simply feels good (of course, we were there before the winter rains began). From a visitor’s perspective, Venice is in many ways one of the most comfortable cities I’ve ever been in.