Nao Tamura


The bathroom is a place where we address physical needs universal to all mankind, regardless of age, gender identity, nationality, religion, or skin color. As we come into an age of increased awareness, how can a communal space like the public bathroom evolve in order to effectively accommodate our infinitely diverse needs?

Living in New York, I have been privileged to witness the LGBTQ+ community living in alignment with their gender identities. As I designed this public bathroom for a small triangular lot in Shibuya, I envisioned a society that embraces the community and holds space for them to live their truth. I realized that addressing safety and privacy was essential to a comfortable experience for everyone. With this in mind, I created three separate spaces that redefine the way a public bathroom establishes personal space.

The design was inspired by Origata, a traditional Japanese method of decorative wrapping. A symbol of gift-giving, this motif embodies the spirit of hospitality towards Shibuya ward’s multinational visitors, and carries my vision to create a safe space that envelopes all users.

This design represents my hope for a society where people from all walks of life feel safe and are able to thrive.

Date: 2020-2021
Client: The Nippon Foundation
Status: Complete/Open
Photo: Satoshi Nagare/ SS CO., Ltd. Hiroko Hojo

Color [Red]: My first consideration was to not create a structure that would not just blend in with the surroundings. The location is industrial and lies beneath an elevated train station clad in concrete.I wanted to create an intervention that would be easily seen, recognized and telegraph a sense of urgency. All the things which typically accompanyones need to locate and use a public toilet.

The color Red for me represents “safety and “immediacy” and my feeling is that a public toilet is simply a utalitarian structure with one purpose only – it is not a place to linger or gather. As a woman, I don’t believe that I am the only one who feels some sense of fear or discomfort when entering an outdoor public bathroom. Especially at night and alone where anyone could possibly walk in.

Origata is a traditional Japanese method of Gift Wrapping.
One typically utilizes a single sheet of white paper which is precisely folded several times. This process symbolizes the purity of an object and its having never been touched by human hands. The ancient technique is not only an expression of beauty and etiquette, but one of the highest forms of honor and respect when bestowed upon its receiver.

Originally this project’s launch was to occur in tandem with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The renovation of these public spaces was conceived in the spirit of hospitality and as a symbolic gift to Shibuya’s international visitors.

In order to replicate the Origata technique and the precise folds of paper that embody it, I chose steel plates to create the exterior’s structure and facade.

THE TOKYO TOILET This project by The Nippon Foundation aims for the realization of a society where all kinds of diversity are accepted, by building public toilets. With the full cooperation of Shibuya city, 17 toilets that are accessible for anyone regardless of gender, age, or disability will be created. Through the power of design and the creativity of 16 creators who support the objectives of this project, The Nippon Foundation is demonstrating what this new society can achieve. The toilets will be constructed by DAIWA HOUSE INDUSTRY CO., LTD., and TOTO LTD. will advise on toilet equipment and layout.

16 Creators: Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Tomohito Ushiro, Masamichi Katayama, Kengo Kuma, Junko Kobayashi, Takenosuke SakakuraKashiwa, SatoKazoo Sato, Nao Tamura, NIGO, Marc Newson, Shigeru Ban, Sou Fujimoto, Miles Pennington, Fumihiko Maki