Senn HS

Redesign Senn High School's Restrooms



When thinking about architecture and design, a restroom is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind, right? Yet, a safe, clean and accessible restroom is absolutely essential to a well-designed school, or any other public building for that matter. Maybe you won’t use your locker or the library every day, but the restrooms certainly will be used every day.

Let’s face it. The restrooms at Senn aren’t exactly what you describe as “inviting”—from holes in the wall to the lack of a way to dry your hands. But, you could change that! In this design challenge, you’ll flex your design muscles and envision what Senn’s restrooms could look like.

Woman's Restroom 1Woman's Restroom 2Woman's Restroom 3Men's Restroom 1

To kick off the challenge, think about Senn’s restrooms and brainstorm how a new restroom design might improve the school. Write a short 3 - 5 sentence problem statement that includes:

  • Who might it improve the school for: your peers, your teachers, the employees who clean the bathrooms, etc.?
  • How might it improve the school: efficiency, happiness, safety, cleanliness, etc.? Why?

Upload your problem statement to complete this step.

Collect Info

Now it’s time to gather more information about the state of the restrooms at Senn.

To start, interview at least two of your peers (or teachers) who are not in your design class. You’ll want to ask about:

  • How often do people use the restrooms in Senn?
  • Why do people use (or not use) the restrooms in Senn? Aside from the obvious use of “going to the bathroom,” are there other reasons people use the restroom (e.g. fixing their hair, changing clothes, etc.)?
  • What safety, privacy, and cleanliness concerns do students and teachers have about restrooms?

With your research in hand, take a look at these resources to help define some important design features:

  • Watch this video where Mohamed Shahin shows the features that make for an accessible bathroom.
  • Check out this article with unique restroom designs (along with their floor plans) from Japan. Which do you like and which do you dislike? What aspects do you like or dislike?
  • Read “Why Architects Must Rethink Bathroom Design in Schools” to see some radically different, gender-neutral restroom designs.
  • Check out the American Restroom Associations guidelines, which provides tips like: “Restroom doors should be designed so that after one has washed their hands, exit is possible without touching a surface.” 

Now that you’ve done your research, do the following:

  • Find and upload three restroom designs that you admire, along with a caption explaining what features you like about them. Try searching for phrases like “bathroom” or “public restroom” on pinterest or flickr, or looking through articles like this and this for inspiration.
  • Summarize the results of your interviews. What do people like and dislike about the current restrooms? What does a redesigned bathroom need to have to meet the needs of students and teachers at Senn?

To complete this step, upload your three restroom design inspirations (with captions) along with the summary of your interview results.

Brainstorm Ideas

Time to turn that research into ideas:

  • Make a list of all the things you, your peers and your teachers like about Senn’s restrooms.
  • Make a list of all the things you, your peers and your teachers dislike about Senn’s restrooms.
  • Make a list of all the features that the current restrooms have (e.g. garbage bins, stalls, etc.).
  • Make a list of all the features that your ideal public restroom should have (e.g. hand dryer, accessible stalls, etc.). What kinds of privacy, accessibility and cleanliness features should it have?

To complete this step, upload your lists. You can write them by hand and upload a picture, or type them directly into the textbox on DiscoverDesign.

Develop Solutions and Get Feedback

Now's the time to take what you've learned from the steps above and develop your own solution for a new restroom at Senn.

Check out this video tutorial to learn how to create a floor plan using grid paper. Print some out grid paper and make a floor plan of the existing bathroom space. Keep your designs between 300 - 500 ft². Draw the walls of the space on the paper first, then start marking out where the furnishings (toilets, sinks, garbage bins, etc.) would go. 

Check out this approach to creating a floor plan where you draw the walls of the space and then use cut outs drawings of furniture so that you can flexibly rearrange them on top of your plan and iterate quickly. Create a cutout that is roughly person sized and move them through the space to make sure you’ve left enough room for someone to easily walk around the bathroom.

Keep in mind your list of likes and desired features from the previous brainstorming step. E.g. if one of your desired features is a handicap accessible, is there enough room for a wheelchair within your floor plan?

Next, show your design to a peer in your class for feedback. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What questions do you have about the restroom?
  • What do you like about the restroom?
  • Is there anything confusing about the layout?
  • What things do you think should be changed?

To complete this step, upload a picture of your floor plan, along with the feedback you received on your idea.

Final Design

Now it is time to build a final design and test it. Since you can’t realistically build a complete bathroom by hand for this challenge, you can use either Floorplanner or HomeStyler. Both are architecture design tools that will allow you to create interactive 3D buildings, from floor plans, which you can virtually walk and explore from a first person perspective. Take your floor plan and feedback from the last step and turn them into your final design.

With your 3D model built, ask a peer in your class (someone who you haven’t interviewed yet) to navigate your model in 3D flythrough mode. Ask them to use the virtual restroom in the same way that they would if they were using the Senn bathroom in person. Silently observe their behavior and take notes: do they look confused, are they able to immediately find what they are looking for? Try not to guide or direct them unless absolutely necessary. No one is going to be standing in the real world space guiding and directing people, so you want to get the most true to life test of your design as you can.

After they’ve navigated your model, ask them the following questions:

  • Did you immediately know how to find the toilet, sink, hand dryer, etc.?
  • How did you feel as you were walking through the restroom?
  • What do you like about the restroom?
  • Is there anything confusing about the layout?
  • What things do you think should be changed?

Upload screenshots of your 3D design from different angles, along with a summary of the results from your user testing.

Design Competition

Now that you’ve got a taste for what it’s like to design a space in your school, would you like to join a student team that will be creating a brand new design lab within Senn?

Between November and March, a group of Design 2 students will come together to turn a 1,800 square foot room from the current library into your own design lab - a place for design students to hang out, work on projects and use cutting edge design tools. 

The Design 2 students who participate - the Design 4 Democracy (D4D) team - will interview the CPS architects and engineers who will be building the space, tour other community spaces in Chicago for inspiration, learning 3D modeling skills and design a plan for the lab. Senn & CPS will then actually turn your vision into reality, so that design students will be able to use the lab in the 2019 - 2020 school year.

The D4D team will meet 1 - 3 times a month on Thursdays or Fridays after school, between November and March, for roughly an hour and a half. Team members will get a $20 dollar gift card for attending each meeting (for a total of $240 over 12 meetings). If you are interested, your work on this design challenge will be used to select a small group of students to join the team.

If you are interested in joining the D4D team and have time available, complete this step by entering in “Yes, I’m interested and available” into DiscoverDesign for this step.