Good design is aesthetic and pleasing. But great design is deeply empathetic—it always puts the user first. And nothing could be more critical than empathetic designs when it comes to public places. They’re meant to be for the public’s benefit, after all!
However, the world is full of examples of poor design. From truly awful restrooms that anyone would think twice about using to unfriendly restaurant seating, disruptive decor, and stairwells that go nowhere. Our team at A&D has collected some of the worst public place design decisions to prove that everyone deserves better. Scroll down for the crème de la crème of bad interiors, and upvote the pics you loved to hate.
01. This Mirrored Ceiling In Our Bathroom At Work
02. Not A Good Carpet Choice For Stairs If You Ask Me
03. Waiting To Engage In A Dining Experience At My Favorite Taco Establishment
Dr. Steve Soifer, program manager for the American Restroom Association, was kind enough to share his thoughts on public bathroom design with us.
According to Soifer, privacy is a crucial factor in restroom use. “People want privacy, in general, for their business,” he stressed. And so, this is the factor to keep front-of-mind in terms of design.
Unfortunately, privacy is often a forgotten concern. “In the U.S., so many public bathrooms aren’t designed for that—if you can find one!” the ARA program manager noted a noticeable lack of public restrooms—especially quality ones.
04. It’s Not Even Angled Or Anything To Guide The Drainage. It Just Dribbles Onto The Floor
05. This Picture In The Hotel Lobby Looks Like Pubes
06. Best Item To Hang Above Your Head At Dinner? Ah Yes, A Chandelier Of Knives
We were interested in learning the primary factors driving someone away from using a public restroom. “Well, of course, a shy bladder or medical concerns like emptying a colonoscopy bag,” Dr. Soifer told us.
Situations like these make privacy so paramount in the first place. A poorly-designed bathroom that makes someone feel like others are watching them won’t instill much confidence.
According to Dr. Soifer, the main issue for the American Restroom Association is SOAG—single occupancy, all-gender toilets. These offer more privacy, and people prefer them, especially if they have thicker doors and partitions extending further down to the floor.
Meanwhile, larger SOAGs can help accommodate individuals with disabilities. And, of course, if these facilities are cleaned well and regularly, they’ll only be more appealing to the public.
07. The Lighting At This Bar
08. Toilet Door In A Pub, London
09. The Seats Don’t Match With The Desks In The Lecture Hall I Take My Exams In. This Is The One Of The Engineering Buildings
Arch Daily notes that the best public places will be easily accessible, create an excellent first impression, and make people comfortable.
It’s one thing to have a poorly designed interior at home—if you love it, you love it, no matter what your guests might think. It’s another thing when those bad design decisions go out into the public sphere.
In public, you have to be far more acutely aware of common denominators and what most people would agree that comfortable design looks like. You can’t go about designing everything based on deeply subjective factors: you have the so-called common good to look out for.
10. It Looks Like The Hotel Cart Ran Someone Over And Is Dragging Their Blood Through The Halls
11. A Chandelier Would Tie All These Florescent Lighting And Ceiling Tiles Together
12. This Door Handle
You can’t, for instance, design public places as though you were the only person using them. You must remember that people come in all shapes and sizes. So you must be equally aware of how certain decisions, decorations, and interior quirks will affect someone taller or shorter, bigger or smaller than you.
Not only that, you have to ensure that these spaces are accessible to everyone. If everything’s extremely cramped, someone using a wheelchair may have difficulty navigating the area. The more accessible these spaces are to people, regardless of their physical abilities, the more universal they are.
Moreover, public places should also be designed with comfort and safety in mind. You want people to be able to relax instead of constantly being on edge. That might mean investing in good lighting, security, and ergonomic furniture design. Not only that, you could also focus on environment-friendly, sustainable materials that are both pleasant to look at and touch.
13. All Toilets Must Be Centered In The Middle Of The Classroom So Kids Eating Their Snacks Three Feet Away Can Bare Witness To Their Classmates Defecating
14. You Have To Go Up The Stairs, And Then Down The Stairs To Get To The Door
15. This Pillar
Meanwhile, everyone would appreciate it if their environment wasn’t too hot or cold. If the public is shivering from the cold, dizzy from the heat, or wondering why the place smells so bad, they will have the wrong time. Thinking about these kinds of details sets the best designers apart.
16. The Clock In My School’s Band Practice Room
17. These Coffin-Shaped Door Windows In This Hospital
18. This Ticket Gate At My School
Well-designed interiors aren’t just about aesthetics, even though creating a pleasant first impression is essential. There has to be a balance between beauty and functionality. If your public library looks Instagram-worthy, for instance, then congratulations. However, if there isn’t enough space for folks to sit down and read, the library fails in its duty to the public.
19. Bowling Alley Located In Bangkok. Cracks Me Up When The Ball Rolls Out From That
20. The Positioning Of The Mirror And Urinals In Our Office Building. This Is The Main Hallway
21. When Life Tries To Give Me A Sign
Previously, A&D spoke about good design with an urban planning expert from Sweden. “Most of the time, the elements of the built environment should be in harmony amidst each other and with the surroundings. However, sometimes, something bolder and out-of-the-box might form an engaging contrast,” she shared that built environments have to engage the public and stimulate people’s minds and senses.
22. Imagine Walking Out Of That Cabin, And A Guy is Doing His Business Right In Front Of You, Blocking Your Way. So You Have To Wait There Until He Is Done, And You Can Pass
23. My Friend’s New Locker Has A Huge Pipe Running Through It
24. Hotel In Iceland. It’s Supposed To Tell You Which Rooms Are On Which Floor
“There are circumstances where the architecture should create a sense of calmness and safety, yet there are instances in which it is not bad if the architecture provokes us and makes us think, ‘Why don’t I like the look of this building?'” the urban planning expert noted that there’s far more flexibility for creativity regarding private property.
25. Semi-Transparent Bathroom Stall Doors
26. This Disastrous Thing In A German Restaurant
27. These Lights At The Mall
“Quirky architecture comes from our innate desire to demonstrate our uniqueness. However, not everyone with the means has an average taste for aesthetics. Yet, as long as it is for the people who inhabit or use their private space, why not?”
28. They Couldn’t Put It In Between The Mirrors?
29. These Taco Bell Self-Serve Kiosks
30. I Love Not Being Able To See The Person I’m Eating Dinner With
However, at the same time, the expert noted that some believe that even private property has to be fully in harmony with the public spaces surrounding it.
“But, we should not cross that thin line where architecture becomes reserved for only the wealthy and for those with ‘good taste’ (whoever decides that). I’m only talking about private property here, though. When it comes to public space, there should be a consensus between the public and the professional about the design,” she told us.
For more public place design fails, check out our earlier piece here.
31. This Clock. Can You Tell Me What Time It Is?
32. The Stairs To Nowhere – Public Places Design Fail
33. An Extreme Entrance To School Gym
34. This Horrific SpongeBob Stained Glass Panel At The Dentist
35. This Sink In The Toilet Of A Restaurant In Amsterdam. It Seems It’s Suppose To Look Like That
36. These Bathroom Sinks Looks Similar To Urinals
37. There’s Not Enough Room For The Cart To Get By
38. I Have No Idea What Floor I’m On – Public Places Design Fail
39. The Main Hallway’s Roof In Our School Is Made Out Of Plexi-Glass So It’s Like We Are In A Sauna. We Can’t Stay In Classrooms During Breaks, So We Have To Burn Here
40. This TV In Front Of The Evacuation Plan
41. These Stairs In A College I Visited Had People Confused
42. Maybe Wait Until You’re Home
43. One Of The Drawers At My Doctor’s Office Always Annoys Me – Public Places Design Fail
44. This Wrestling Painting At A High School
45. My School Bought Modern Stuff. The Projector Was Placed Under The Screen
46. Bathroom Mirror At A Bar In Italy
47. These Red Lights Leaking Into The Screen
48. This Busy Ice Cream Shop In Seattle Put Their Menu On A Mirror So It’s Impossible To Read
49. I Went To Walgreens, And All The Drinks Are Like This. You Can Wave Your Hand To See Pictures Of The Drinks In Each Case, But You Would Know What’s Sold Out Once You Open It
50. A Table For Two, Please – Public Places Design Fail
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