Royal Ontario Museum Washroom Renewal


With an elegantly streamlined and innovative new design, the reimagined Currelly Hall washrooms at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) inject new life into a highly pragmatic program. They are the most heavily used at the ROM, but were badly outdated, in need of repair, and not in keeping with the institution’s ethos of accessibility and environmental responsibility. Renovated to meet the ROM’s centenary, the redesigned washrooms address the project brief through a unique and memorable design that enhances the visitor experience while complementing the historic character of Currelly Hall. Now fully accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities, they require minimum maintenance and are virtually indestructible.

Much of the aesthetic inspiration for the project came from the ROM and its collections. As a museum of natural and cultural history, the ROM has an extensive anthology of fossils abstracted and embedded in various curvilinear forms. Symbolic of intellectual purity, completeness, wholeness and timelessness—while also acknowledging the two circular zeroes marking the institution’s 100th birthday—curves and circles became a defining and recurrent motif in the design.

To achieve the ROM’s objective of synthesizing aesthetics, durability, and efficiency of use and maintenance, the design bypassed conventional washroom fixtures and products. Fundamental to the scheme is a unique, sinuous element that combines the function of a counter with an ADA-compliant trough-style sink at two heights—one for children and the other for adults and those in mobility devices—complete with a baby-changing table and diaper disposal. Fabricated from white Corian, it is a seamlessly integrated clean and fluid form; its organic contours providing a sculptural and dynamic focus to the space. In conjunction with the gleaming row of brushed stainless steel partitioned stalls on the opposite wall, the washrooms are a paradigm of hygienic purity and efficiency.

Combination water faucet/hand dryers allow visitors to wash and dry their hands at the same location, shortening overall time spent in the washroom by reducing cross-over traffic, which in turn ensures a drier floor, lower operating costs and the elimination of paper towel waste. To further decrease maintenance, the design team specified ceiling-mounted partitions, wall-mounted plumbing and fixtures, and a seamless terrazzo floor that evokes the many minerals in the ROM’s collections.

The project’s thoughtful and nuanced features produce a greatly enriched environment, elevating the visitor experience and demonstrating that even small design interventions can contribute to much larger institutional goals.

photo: Tom Arban