Royal flush: toilet design award

Multi-functional design combines public toilets, a small café and even a place where passers-by can admire a model of Słupsk that charts the city’s development. Aleksandra Kozłowska

An annual design competition in Poland focuses on a specific piece of public infrastructure: toilets.

Now in its 20th edition and with over 300 entries a year, the KOŁO competition was established to address the dearth of public toilets in Polish cities. The name refers to the KOŁO brand of sanitary parts, now part of Swiss multinational group Geberit. Each year, the competition focuses on a different city or location, inviting students and young architects to design toilets that complement the surrounding urban landscape. By combining design with functionality, it aims to improve everyday life in a small but important way.

This year’s competition selected public toilets for Słupsk, a city of almost 100,000 inhabitants near Poland’s Baltic coast. The location was announced in advance: the embankment along the river Słupia, visited by residents and tourists alike. The prize is 20,000 złoty and an internship at Kuryłowicz & Associates, a Warsaw architecture studio.

This year’s winner was Aleksandra Kozłowska, an architecture student at Łódź Polytechnic, who received both the Grand Prix and the Debut of the Year awards. Her multi-functional design combines public toilets, a small café and even a place where passers-by can admire a model of Słupsk that charts the city’s development.

“An important part of the project was to create a place that, in connection with the planned revitalisation of the embankment, will encourage the city’s residents to spend time by the Słupia River, not just on sunny days,” wrote Kozłowska, describing her design.

Designing the building, Kozłowska positioned it to highlight the original course of the city's defensive walls. Its façade will provide a neutral backdrop for a stretch of the medieval wall –an aspect that caught the jury’s eye with its sensitivity to historical detail.

The competition is not just about attractive design, though – the winning toilets are built. Previous winners that have been built include the Beach Pavillion by the Vistula River in Warsaw and public toilets in Kazimierz Dolny. Kozłowska’s winning design for Słupsk could be built during the revitalisation of the city, which includes the embankment.