The Art of…the Public Restroom?

Author: Josh Durando

Last week, I was down in Washington D.C. assisting on one of the Time to Shine campaign tour events. In addition to this trip being my very first travel event at Penn, which was a cool learning experience for me, it was also great to see how another planner handles pulling together an event.  When we could spare the time, we’d walk around the city.

My favorite night (other than event night, of course) was when we went to Jaleo, a tapas-style restaurant by acclaimed Spanish chef Jose Andres. Aside from the great food (quail and liquid olives, for example), what I remember most vividly about the restaurant was the bathroom.

Allow me to explain. In my 27 years as a traveler across the country and the world, I’ve seen my fair share of public restrooms. Some were delightful—pleasing decor, spotlessly clean, and maybe even an orchid on the sink that I am tempted to steal.  Others…Let’s just say, they left something to be desired.

But the public bathroom at Jaleo was like none I’ve ever seen.  When you looked down in this bathroom here is what you saw:

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An army of people who are apparently super excited you are going to walk on their faces.

I’m not entirely sure what the message is—I think it’s more about branding the place as cool, funky, and above all, full of people who love you.

When I returned from DC, I found myself paying a little more attention to bathroom “art” found at Penn. While I haven’t been scientific about my research, I feel comfortable saying the graffiti art ranks among my favorite so far.

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In this very same bathroom stall just a few inches over from the “look right” bandit you would find this:

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Though the message is a little antiquated, the intention is not, and that brings me to my final point: the people at Penn are smart. They’re also engaged and witty, and have the creativity to give even bathroom graffiti a political slant.

I’ll keep paying attention to what I see on campus in unexpected places and give you updates and things arise.

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