Is it possible for a utilitarian space like an outdoor public restroom to be seen as something beautiful as well as useful? The Trail Restroom along Austin’s Ladybird Hike and Bike Trail proves that places like this do not have to be cold, impersonal, and kind of scary – they can function as works of art.

Miro Rivera Architects took on the task of creating a public restroom for the park – the first one built there in more than 30 years. The exterior is made up of Corton steel plates that vary in height and width. The plates coil around like a seashell, eventually forming the restroom walls.

The restroom’s door and roof are made of the same steel material, unifying the look and letting in natural light through the gaps in the plates. Because of the air that flows through the restroom and the sunlight that penetrates the spaces between the plates, the bathroom requires neither artificial light or ventilation.

Inside, a toilet, urinal, sink, and bench make up the restroom’s facilities. Outside of the door, a drinking fountain and shower allow runners and bikers to take a rest and cool off. The steel slats will become darker as they age, lending the structure the appearance of an ancient monument.

More from the architects

“The Restroom was conceived as a sculpture in a park, a dynamic object along the active trails. The structure consists of forty-nine 3/4″ thick vertical Corten steel plates whose width and height vary significantly in size, from 1′-0″ wide by 1′-6″ high to 2′-0″ wide by 13′-0″ high. The panels are arranged along a spine that coils at one end to form the restroom walls. The plates are staggered in plan to control views and to allow for the penetration of light and fresh air. Both the door and roof were fabricated from 3/4″ thick steel plates as well.”