A regional airport in Arkansas. A St. Louis ice cream parlor. A chain of Texan convenience stores. A historic botanical garden outside of Philadelphia.
What, you may ask, could these places possibly have in common?
As it turns out, they all rank among the best places in the United States in which to excuse oneself for a brief moment to powder your proverbial nose. Translation: they’re rad spots to go to the bathroom.
For the past 14 years, Cincinnati-based uniform and restroom supply company Cintas has invited the public restroom-using public to select the most unforgettable facilities in all the land. And for the past 14 years, the public restroom-using public has enthusiastically responded, singling out distinctive, ornately decorated and/or architecturally significant lavatories from Seattle to Sheboygan and everywhere in between.
Last week, the tiny mountain town of Minturn, Colorado, was named the 2015 winner of Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom Contest. With a population of roughly 1,000 bladder-possessing human beings, this former mining outpost is the type of place where folks really do see a man about a horse.
And thanks to its laid-back Old West charm, bustling outdoor market and picturesque high-altitude locale between the chichi ski resorts of Beaver Creek and Vail, Minturn is also the type of place that receives a good amount of tourist foot traffic. And more often than not, said tourist foot traffic is hustling toward a place to seek relief when nature calls.
That being said, this is the first time in the history of the America’s Best Restroom Contest that a municipal public facility has won top honors. Erected earlier this year, the sparkling new public loo is actually two loos — a pair of standalone enclosed stalls, one for ladies and one for gents, standing opposite each other in Eagle Park.
Resembling a pair of avant-garde outhouses, the sleek his-and-hers public restrooms-cum-functional artworks were the brainchild of Janet Hawkinson, Minturn’s town planner. Hawkinson, who acted as design and construction director for the project, notes that “our public restrooms prove how great it is to combine art, architecture and creativity. It changes moods, places and people.”
Executed in collaboration with Monika Wittig of Boulder-based digital design/fabrication collective LaN, Minturn-based 3-D printing studio LGM and a local welding company, the twin 8-by-8 plywood and steel structures were prefabricated off-site using innovative 3-D printing techniques.
From the Vail Daily:
3-D design and fabrication is a growing field that’s gotten a lot of press lately, and computers have been used to design and fabricate everything from art installations to furniture to runway clothing. To Hawkinson’s knowledge, this is the first time the technology has been used to create something as utilitarian and mundane as public restrooms.
Here’s how it works: Using a computer program, architects design a building. The components of the structure — in this case a wall — is broken down into many pieces, and each piece is given a dimension using an algorithm. Then, a special mill is used to cut each individual piece, and then final product is then assembled like an intricate Lego set. In the case of the Minturn bathrooms, the contoured wall was built out of 320 individually cut plywood pieces.
While serving as a sort of showcase of advanced building technology, the cube-shaped comfort stations aren’t without a certain down-home rustic appeal. In fact, in an homage to Minturn’s mining history, the structures are meant to invoke adits — or underground mining entrances. The interior color schemes — copper for guys and turquoise for the gals — are subtle and nature-inspired while decorative touches such as pine tree cutouts, metal butterflies on the ceilings and elk and deer illustrations gracing each respective door add playful visual pop.
As reported by the Denver Post, Minturn’s 3-D printed restrooms cost $90,000 to design, construct and install.
Of course, being home to America’s number one bathroom is a huge honor for the close-knit Minturn community. And town residents, moved by a sense of civic pride, made it happen by casting their votes during the contest's online public voting period.
Hawkinson tells the Post: “Usually we're just little Minturn near Beaver Creek, but we're trying to build bigger interest. For a town that hasn't had a lot of change, we can keep moving and not lose what people like about Minturn." She adds: "I think it's really great that our leaders took a chance on something artistic and different. It was a risk, it could have failed because it is an art piece. They could have just been safe and bought a concrete bathroom. We can still be Minturn, be different and push the envelope."
Minturn, which beat out the fanciful facilities at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the whisky barrel-housed commodes at Charleston Distilling in South Carolina, will receive a $2,500 credit toward Cintas restroom cleaning supplies. That’s a whole lot of wet mops and liquid hand soap.
All top three finalists will receive a complimentary deep cleaning from the company.
Other unparalleled lavatories that didn’t make the top three include the clubby (Cibo Wine Bar in Miami), the “Far Side”-themed (the Salty Pig in Boston) and the Rural Studio-designed (Perry Lakes Park in Marion, Alabama).