By Lida Alikhani
Taking a stroll downtown, you may stop to take a look at yourself in a mirror and not know you’re staring straight into a bathroom.
Sulphur Springs, Texas recently debuted all-glass restrooms that are the first of their kind in the United States.
Not many people would feel comfortable using the loo with see-through walls in the middle of a busy downtown square, but the best part is, nothing is visible from the outside in, just from the inside out.
The city recently revamped the entire downtown area and the decision for what kind of bathrooms to put in was a bit of a challenge.
“Bathrooms are typically ugly no matter what you do, how can you make them disappear?,” said city manager Marc Maxwell. “You cover it with mirrors, that’s how, and why not make it a one-way mirror while you’re at it.”
Reactions from some locals were on both sides of the spectrum, with one side feeling a little unsure about using the bathrooms and the other side saying they didn’t have a problem with them, said Maxwell.
“I stood around the bathroom for a long time to make sure you couldn’t see inside and you couldn’t,” said local resident Merrideth Caddell. “Once I went in, it felt strange that four men were looking into the bathroom, but they couldn’t see me.”
“I’ve used it and yeah, it was a little odd, but it was fine.” said Maxwell.
Caddell said at night while standing outside, she could see the light from her son’s cell phone inside the bathroom but she couldn’t see his hand holding it, or anything else.
David Gideon of the Commercial Glass & Mirror Company built the glass for the structure and he says they had to build several prototypes before finding the right combination of glass that you couldn’t see into.
In order for the illusion to work properly, the outside of the structure must be more lit than the inside, said Gideon.
These bathrooms have no lights on the inside and in order to see at night, LED lights were placed on the outside of the structure, for the illusion to remain.
The odd pair didn’t come cheap, costing right around $54,000, said Maxwell.
They were modeled after Italian artist, Monica Bonivicini’s art piece – ‘Don’t Miss A Sec’ from 2004, which was located outside an art museum in Switzerland.
The artistic creation needed to make a couple of changes in order to meet code for public use.
Bonivicini’s piece had see-through glass on all four walls, but the restrooms as Sulphur Springs have only three walls with see-through glass in order to hide all plumbing, air conditioning and heating, said Maxwell.
Unlike the architectural exhibit, these bathrooms have a stainless steel frame inside to hold it up.
The restrooms were built to be a lot more durable for the long-run.
For those residents concerned with safety due to the new restrooms, there are several cameras on the square watching everything that’s going on, said Maxwell.