Ocean Beach Comfort Station
The committee decided that since I get to announce all the Onions, I could start with an Orchid. For a bathroom, or make that a Comfort Station… The 2012 Orchids & Onions jury decided that the City of San Diego got it right with the Ocean Beach Comfort Station. A smorgasbord of materials and contrasting elements, combined with the integration of playful and unique design details turned what is often a drab, necessary afterthought into a “distinctive reflection of the eclectic and bohemian community of Ocean Beach.” From the bright-colored tile walls, sculptural bike racks and shower stations and inclusion of the community’s “OB,” identifier in the structure - to the engaging artwork applied to the cantilevered ceiling which allows for natural ventilation and lighting, the talented team of designers and willing public officials were able to work together, to create an interesting and highly functional structure that has transcended its’ purpose to become a vibrant landmark in this laid back beach community.
- Project Address: 5195 Brighton Avenue
- Project Owner/ Developer: City of San Diego Public Works Dept.
- Owner Contact Name/ Email: Elif Cetin firstname.lastname@example.org
- Project Architect/ Designer: Design Architect: Kevin deFreitas Architects, AIA, Architect of Record: Sillman Wright Architects
The City should be commended for commissioning a public restroom that is really cool as opposed to the typical dark, dank, and generally thoughtless utilitarian design associated with this type of building. This is a fun little project that clearly reflects the values and character of the OB community; bohemian, artistic, environmentally sensitive, all while encapsulating the super laid back beach town vibe.
The builing has interesting lines that change as you walk around it, each vantage point offers something different. Tapering and non-square walls ensure that one always sees two sides at once, creating visual perspective illusions.
The most prominent feature is the thin cantilevered roof which floats off of the supporting walls which reminds me of the Seagull in flight design of the ubiquitous OB decal plastered on cars all over the neighborhood. The underside of the entire roof is covered with a huge dynamic piece of public art. The piece is an impressive swirl of color and text featureing snipets of OB history which I find way more engaging than expected literal references to fish or sea life.
In a nod to visitor, giant “Ob” letters are branded directly into the concrete wall facing the ocean so that they are always reminded of where they are.
The City officially calls its public restrooms "Comfort Stations" and this project seems to really take the moniker seriously. Aside from the expected showers and amenities of a public restroom, the design includes bike racks (locals perfered mode of transport). Another thoughtful little gesture is a large wrap around seat wall perfect for watching one of the games on the nearby volleyball courts. I'm told that roof mounted solar panels produce 100% of the buildings energy needs-self sustaining and environmentally sensitive make great sense.
The building obviously takes full advantage of its site and taps into simple energy saving techniques the large gap between the roof and the walls allows for a ton of natural daylight and coastal breezes into the interior; feels bright and smells like the ocean not like a public restroom.
The bathroom is unexpectly awesome at night, because the the gap that lets in light and air during the day is lit. The ceiling mounted art work comes alive and the building looks special not like a maximum security detention facility bathed in funky street lighting.
But the most spectacular view of the comfort station is up Brighton Ave viewed from the neighborhood just before dusk on a clear evening you can actually witness the sun setting in the gap between the winged roof and the walls below like the magical green flash.
Not a big or fancy building just appropriate for the neighborhood and it's prominent on the sand location. Well done and thank you councilman Falconer and City of San Diego for this little gem.