Recently named as the European Union’s most innovative region, Stockholm is a modern city in every sense of the word and joining others in a growing list of Smart Cities accross the World. Stretching across fourteen islands, the Swedish capital boasts not only to some of the world’s best universities but the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony. It is Scandinavia’s cultural and political hub and “one of the world’s most productive metropolitan economies,” according to JPMorgan Chase. And now it’s even got the most Modern Restroom.
In the recent years, this Nordic design and innovation hub added another title to its manifold accolades: the city is now home to “the most innovative public toilet in the world” thanks to Wall GmbH, the German company that designed 50 high-tech, self-cleaning toilets for the Swedish capital in 2016 on an ambitious timeline.
“The development time for such a project is usually 24 months,” said Michael Wittner, technical manager at Wall GmbH; Stockholm gave them six. If that wasn’t enough, the city required the size of the entire finished product to be just slightly bigger than the space inside the toilet. This meant the toilet’s innovative technology had to be packed into minimal space. Necessity is the mother of invention, however, and instead of being hampered by the restrictions, Wittner and his team were inspired. The end result was unprecedented.
Hygienic isn’t what usually comes to mind when people think of public toilets— which is exactly what Wall GmbH wanted to change. After every use, a thin layer of water streams across the floor, thoroughly disinfecting every inch. Concurrently, a hatch opens behind the toilet bowl, extending a specialized attachment that fits snugly over the toilet bowl to drench it in high-powered disinfectant. Furthermore, the toilet seat is also antibacterial with a nonstick surface. Most impressively, the entire process only uses one litre of water. The interior is fully disinfected every night and built-in laser sensors ensure cleaning never takes place while someone is inside.
Stockholm is a city that values design—with 90 of the 100 stations featuring the work of over 100 artists, the city’s 68-mile metro system is known as the “world’s longest art gallery.” The designers wanted toilets that fit in and gave them a sleek exterior that would blend into both modern and historical architecture throughout the city.
Nordic winters are often punishing, with average temperatures dipping below freezing. This makes the transparent heating foil embedded in the ceiling a crucial feature to keep the bathrooms comfortable. It also means proper insulation matters not just for keeping users toasty but to prevent heat from escaping and squandering energy.
This is where one of the toilet’s most innovative features come in: its automatic sliding doors. Opening and closing with the wave of a hand, the doors are insulated and trap heat. It also means they prevent germ transmission—critical when, on average, bathroom surfaces have 500,000 bacterial cells per square inch after just an hour of use. The same sensors are a safety feature, ensuring the doors never close when someone remains in the doorway, or open before the user is ready.
Dubbed as “the unicorn factory” by the Financial Times, Stockholm continues to improve quality of life for its residents through a holistic and design-centered approach. As the Nordic capital’s prominence grows as a cultural, economic, and now restroom leader, other cities of the world are tuning in for inspiration.