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Beach Bathroom Bingo: Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects Gives Santa Monica Surfers A Privileged Place to Pee

The setup at each bathroom is unique, with the intention of creating a welcoming place.

Rendering courtesy the City of Santa Monica.The setup at each bathroom is unique, with the intention of creating a welcoming place.

Crowded in your bathroom in the morning? Can't get your girl outta the shower? Try sharing sink time with millions -- and you've got the setup at the City of Santa Monica public beach bathrooms.

With high user numbers and harsh-on-materials weather conditions such as the coastal environment's wind and salt, it's no wonder that durability was the key word when it came to designing eight new beach bathrooms, which began to open in the area at the end of July.

That challenge explains the rugged, simple materials used by the architectural firm of Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects for the project. Marine-grade stainless steel that's hardy enough for boats and polished cinder blocks that can't break, bend or mutilate are just two of the examples.

Still, says Tyson K. Cline, who led the firm's design team, the architects also looked for ways to soften the tone and animate buildings that typically have the most institutional of functions.

For the bathrooms' ceilings and roof beams, the firm used a warm Alaskan cedar that adds a glow as it reflects sunlight -- especially in the early morning and at sunset. Screens that create privacy on both sides of the structures show beach-related images, which are different at each location. From a distance the images -- which range from the early days of volleyball, which began in Santa Monica, to Pete Peterson, a 1930s era-surfer who Cline dubs the Laird Hamilton of his time -- are visible. But up-close they're faint, mood-evoking abstracted dots on aluminum panels that, again, change with the quality of the Southern California light.

To further de-isolate the concrete and metal structures and connect them to life on the packed sand, Roesling Nakamura Terada create steadily-growing, broken-up walls that lead from the bike bath to each bathroom's central spine.

Durable marine-grade steel generates safety but allows light into each individual bathroom. Meantime, wood warms up the ceilings.

Tibby RothmanDurable marine-grade steel generates safety but allows light into each individual bathroom. Meantime, wood warms up the ceilings.

Beach necessities -- like a place to lean your surfboard as you shower or lock your cruiser as you check the surf -- are provided but vary in setup, depending on the bathroom's location. For instance, the architects stocked more showers at a bathroom that's adjacent to a set of well-used volleyball courts and more diaper changing spots near a beach-side park.

Finally, taking their cue from the city's nearby Annenberg Beach House, the firm surrounds and further defines the areas surrounding the bathrooms with walkways that function much like decks in private homes. Though a seemingly minor detail, by extending built space they create the sense the bathrooms are more than bunkers in the sand. Instead they're a meeting spot, much like friends often call out lifeguard tower numbers as a defacto beach address. Made from Trex, a hearty material recycled from plastic bags, they also can be a stop-over on a burning-hot sand day.

Showers and surfrack setup vary at each location, but all of them take advantage of the ocean view.

Tibby RothmanShowers and surfrack setup vary at each location, but all of them take advantage of the ocean view.

Though the facilities are far from the lush, expensive bathrooms that fill the pages of Dwell, Roesling Nakamura Terada successfully generate life and a welcoming atmosphere around what's more typically seen as a stop of last resort. Like the city of Santa Monica's public beach club, they add to the notion, that we California riff-raff own the beach as much as the Colony contingent. Now if everyone would take the hint, and start picking up their trash instead of leaving it for the locals.

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