Design Research – A Cultural and Historical Survey of Sanitation
by on October 30, 2020 in All

Continuing on the commissioned hours of design research for the Cube Museum’s Toilet Expo I will explore toilets of the past, present, and future, with special emphasis on the future. I have to look globally at different artistic visions, projects, and products. I think especially important is to look from the point of view the different age groups in a population pyramid: a toilet for the very young and the very old are, as well as the disabled is different than for average mobile individual.


This is just an illustration to make the point that the standard western toilet design only serves a section of population and not the whole population. There will always be a percentage of disabled and handicapped individuals, as well as pre and post toilet age individuals.

I think it is also important to break down the toilet into the sequence of functions of human excretion: vessel – cleanse – final destination. There three functions are more or less universal, but are later coloured by culture, law, social and civil infrastructure, personal financial power, location, and material circumstance.




It is important to place toilets in the context of the development of agricultural civilisation. Nomadic civilisation have little need of a toilet beyond a hole in the ground, because they simply moved on, and by the time they return, if they return, nature has absorbed the human waste into her own circular system of nutrients. Here I will compile a list of toilets of the past:

One hour toilet documentary starting with very early civilisation.

Shorter Overview of Western Toilet History (Romans)

Chamber pots analysis.



The point of this map is to illustrate the idea that toilet-sewer civil infrastructure is a layer of development in development of societies and civilisations. By no means has the western flush toilet replaced the simple squat toilet / direct hole in the ground.

It also important that even if toilet-sewer infrastructure is in place, seated toilets are still a culturally dependent design. Many countries still prefer to squat.

This map also attempts to illustrate that toilet paper is another layer of luxury and also culturally dependent. Most countries still use water to cleanse the anus, often with direct hand application. Cleaning the anus with the left hand is still a common practice.

It is no coincidence that all three of these aspects loosely overlap. The seat toilet and sewer being mainly an export of more developed countries to developing countries.

Here follows a list of toilets and toilet projects of the present:

Quick look at different and cultural solutions to the toilet:

This is a nice introductory video:

Developing World Toilets:

Unicef Video encouraging people not to defecate out in the open in developing countries:

Developing World Toilet Expose

United Nations Toilet Goals:

This has an nice playlist attached to this video.

Eco-San Unicef:

Developed World:

With extra money around, toilets become more than functional.

21 interesting toilets:

Compost Toilets

Compost Toilet: – Garden Integration

This is a great video discussing the finer points of compost toiling and the final destination of composted human waste: personal fruit garden and black soldier flies.

Enviro-Loo: Aerobic Composting Toilet

Sun Mar: Compost toilet

Anal Hygiene and Beyond:

Anti Toilet Paper Rap

Reusable toilet paper:

Cultural Comparison: American use a Bidet for the first time

How and Why Enema Video:

3 Day Colon Cleanse – 3 Day partial Fast



This map is an illustration of a speculative future for toilet technology. As developing countries transform into developed countries Toilet-sewer civil infrastructure will increase areas with flush toilets.

As we are already seeing hybridisation of squat toilets into seated toilets, and sitting toilets into squat toilets, I believe the future is about adaptable toilet design. A Hybrid design that included all portions of the population including the disabled.

I also believe the final destination of human waste will change. I believe human waste will undergo a cultural re-imaging process into being seen as a human resource. This will be reflected in technological process that incorporate bacterial, fungal, composting, and filtering processes and tech.

In terms of efficiency and better non-superstitious education in the west, the practice of wasteful toilet paper use will eventually die and be replaced with water cleanse technologies and techniques.

Here follows a compilation of future toilet designs, projects, and art:

Future of toilets:

A quick look at future trends in toilets:

Similar video with some overlaps:

TED VIDEO: toilet innovation – cal tech

Caltech Toilet:

Caltech Toilet CNN video:

Central st. Martins graduation Toilet:

Incinolet _ cremation toilet:

Cinderella – cremation toilet:

Hybrid Toilets:

The science of Squatting