Designed on the Hill | The ‘purpose and politics’ of Optimism Brewing’s bathrooms

(Image courtesy Optimism Brewing)

(Image courtesy Optimism Brewing)

Designed on the Hill is a new series reflecting on good design, as observed by Greg Janky and Treasure Hinds of Anvil Studios, a product design firm based on Capitol Hill.

Just a few blocks down from our offices is a bold statement of universal design; the spacious, timber-lined hall of Optimism Brewing.

Though the many design subtleties may not be noticed right away, even casual visitors know right away they are interacting with a special space. Optimism Brewing Company made a very conscious choice to create a welcoming and innovative space for everyone by designing a gender neutral bathroom that’s not just a huge leap forward for gender equality, but also a demonstration of beautiful design.

For example, rather than using standard gendered iconography, these bathrooms have icons of a toilet and a urinal, allowing the patron to choose which fixture they prefer to use, rather than the one implied for their gender. The lack of mirrors also sends a message that this is a place of simplified utility, and not vanity.

The layout is also family-friendly: fathers can take their daughters to the restroom, and a couple can both change a diaper. Casual conversations can also be continued over a central community sink, which is also eco-friendly.

In addition to making a statement on the purpose and politics of a trip to the bathroom, the design is also efficient. Allowing all people to use all facilities makes sense: why dedicate three toilets just for men in a brewhouse, where they’ll primarily be using a urinal?

The progressive, eco-friendly, and cost-effective use of space in Optimism Brewing Company is proof that integrating universal design and creating a space that works for all people, where everyone feels comfortable, means a universally better experience. Now that’s optimism!

Special thanks to Jocelyn and Gay at Optimism for spending time chatting about design and sharing a beer. Additional thanks to Olson Kundig Architects who designed the space. 

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4 thoughts on “Designed on the Hill | The ‘purpose and politics’ of Optimism Brewing’s bathrooms

  1. One reflection, from my straight white lady perspective, is that this bathroom style limits an experience that is important to me in a restroom in a bar – having a moment away from a date, maybe checking to make sure I don’t have food in my teeth, having a quick moment of gossip with a female friend. I’m glad these restrooms exist for people who aren’t cisgender – they provide a bigger benefit to them than a detriment to me. But just a thought. Its like a rebellion against the women’s lounge in the Nordstrom bathroom. Can’t there at least be mirrors?

    • You can still sneak away for a moment in our restroom. You can still sneak away for gossip, but now you can do it with both same and opposite gender friends. Improvement!

      If your date doesn’t tell you there is food in your teeth, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

      It isn’t any kind of rebellion against lounges or gossip just a firm belief in a space without mirrors, because you are beautiful just the way you are!

  2. BTW I think they are a model for all future restrooms. I talk about them all the time. :D Amazing thought and design.

  3. I’m all for people using the restroom of whichever gender they identify most strongly with, but this single restroom concept, no thanks. My one experience with this type of restroom (at a different location) involved some douche hitting on me while I was washing my hands. I know there will be idiots everywhere, but the restroom was the one zone previously free of one-liner dudebros.