In 2012, engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) designed a solar-powered toilet that won the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinventing the Toilet Challenge. The project was created to provide better sanitation options to people around the world. Caltech’s creation is a self-cleaning, solar-powered toilet that turns human waste into hydrogen and fertilizer. When it came to the design of the toilet, Caltech teamed up with Kohler.
In December 2013, the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge continued to evolve by expanding partnerships to continue creating other designs for other countries around the world. Reinventing the Toilet Challenge: India was launched to support sanitation research and development projects conducted by Indian individuals and organizations to extend affordable sanitation services to poor communities.
The mobile restroom had to be placed inside a solar-powered container to showcase at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair in New Delhi, India. To make the décor blend within the local community, the global Creative Director of Kolher, Tristan Butterfield, decided to provide a cultural makeover to this container. He chose the traditional Indian truck art for the exterior design and contacted Shantanu Suman (MFA Graphic Design ’13) at Open Door Design Studio (ODDS) to provide the design concepts. ODDS, a graphic design studio based in Asheville, North Carolina, was co-founded in September 2013 by Suman with UF Graphic Design students Marisa Falcigno and Jorge Pérez.
Once the designs were finished, artists in India painted the container’s exterior with the work from ODDS. “The exterior design of it includes images of brightly colored flowers, birds, animals and scenery, all inspired by the truck art of India and chosen for their cultural significance,” says Suman. “Illustrations of sun, girls worshipping the sun, oils lamps and introduction of solar panels in the village scene were some of the many design decisions we made to highlight the importance of solar energy in the project as well as everyday life.” The company's designs for the container and the toilet were a part of an event in New Delhi from March 21-22, 2014.
“In June 2014 we received an email from the Department of Architecture & Design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) regarding their upcoming exhibition and publication Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities,” explains Suman. “MoMA requested a digital image of our project for Reinventing the Toilet Challenge to be included in the Uneven Growth publication.
The publication with essays by leading scholars on the issue and materials from various projects is a rich resource for students and professionals alike, and a catalyst for worldwide change.”
Apart from being featured in the Uneven Growth publication by MoMA, the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge container design was also featured and won an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts Design Annual 2014.