The Clever Reason Portland's Public Toilets Offer Little Privacy

Courtesy of the Portland Loo
Courtesy of the Portland Loo

What would it take to design a public toilet that doesn't devolve into a den of drugs, graffiti, and a parade of people who relieve themselves on the floor? That was the challenge facing the city of Portland, Oregon back in 2006, when city commissioner Randy Leonard decided to install sidewalk restrooms that would meet the population's need for relief without becoming a blight on the area.

Their solution was the Portland Loo. And more than a decade after the first Loo was installed, it's demonstrably one of the best approaches to providing facilities that remain clean and free from squalor.

Built by Madden Fabrication, the Loo addresses several of the most common issues facing restrooms open to citizens at large. Nothing about the design invites users to linger inside any longer than they need to in order to conduct their business. That's apparent as soon as you walk into the Loo and find a toilet but no sink. The absence of the latter is to prevent people from performing activities like washing clothes or grooming. (There's no mirror, either.) The only way to clean your hands is to use a spigot mounted on the exterior.

A look at the interior of the Portland Loo
Courtesy of the Portland Loo

The Loo also does away with any sense of privacy. Bars on the top and bottom allow passing police to make sure people are adhering to the single-occupancy mandate and not cavorting. The bars also allow sound to carry. If you're inside, you won't really feel removed from the sidewalk or the passing pedestrians, and it's not likely you'll be relaxed enough to do much more than what nature requires.

In order to discourage drug use, the Loo uses a blue light that makes it difficult to locate veins for intravenous injections.

Vandals won't have much to do with the Loo, either. The coated stainless-steel surface resists spray paint and other markings.

The Loo has migrated to other locations around the country, including Cambridge, Massachusetts; Galveston, Texas; and Hoboken, New Jersey. Loos have also made it to Australia. The prefabricated units can run $100,000, with installation and maintenance costs extra. Later this year, Austin, Texas is set to debut two Loos sourced from Portland. The city plans to dub them the Waterloos.

[h/t CityLab]

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

English Couple Is Growing Chairs, Lamps, and Tables at Their ‘Furniture Farm’ in Derbyshire

Full Grown Ltd.
Full Grown Ltd.

You don't need woodworking skills to craft fine furniture from scratch. As one couple from England proved, all you need is a green thumb. Instead of carving their tables and chairs using lumber, the proprietors of Full Grown farm in Derbyshire sculpt live trees into furniture pieces as they grow, Reuters reports.

Gavin and Alice Munro planted the trees that would become their first furniture materials about a decade ago. By manipulating trees' growth and coercing new shoots to go in different directions, they were able to shape them like sculptures—ones that take years to complete. "It was inspired by seeing an overgrown bonsai tree that looked a little like a throne," the Munros told Mental Floss in an email. They were also inspired by Gavin's experience wearing metal back braces as a child to straighten his curved spine.

"Grown" wood chair.
Full Grown Ltd.

The method has been used to grow chairs, lamps, and tables. The pieces are just as functional as regular furniture, and the unique manufacturing style makes for a beautiful, one-of-kind design. But the main goal of the furniture farm is sustainability. Conventional furniture is often made from wood that's been logged and carved into smaller pieces. This produces a lot of waste and carbon emissions. The Munros' streamlined process aims to be an ultra-efficient alternative.

"Grown" wood lamp.
Full Grown Ltd.

Tree sculpting, or "zen 3D printing" as Gavin described it to Reuters, will likely never replace mass furniture production. Every piece of furniture requires a lot of time and labor to craft. For a chair, expect a six to nine-year growing period and another year for it to dry out. Full Grown's chair commissions are currently booked through 2030, but if you're willing to settle for a ready-for-sale item, the next chairs and lamp are set to be harvested sometime in 2022 or 2023. Just be ready to pay around $12,500 and up to $2800 for a lamp. Table prices vary the most, ranging from $3100 to $15,600. Eventually, the Munros hope to expand their operation and make the products a little more accessible. "Once we can get our Furniture Orchard having regular harvests then we can begin to plan a whole farm and start some larger scale experiments in production and ecosystem design," they said.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at their process in the video below.

[h/t Reuters]

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