Pratt Institute Student Union:
Gender Inclusive Bathroom
Environmental Graphic Designer
Environmental Graphic Design
“As a leading college of art and design devoted to a creative learning community, Pratt recognizes the strength that stems from a diversity of perspectives, values, ideas, backgrounds, styles, approaches, experiences, and beliefs. At Pratt Institute, diversity is represented by a mosaic of individuals from a variety of races, ethnicities, religions, gender expressions, sexualities, geographic backgrounds, cultures, ages, abilities, and socioeconomic groups.”
In 2017, I was invited to join a design group assembled by Student Union Development Committee to redesign the interior space for the newly renovated Student Union building. My proposal for the gender-inclusive signage system was selected as part of the final design solution.
The gender-inclusive bathroom messages the embracement of gender diversity at Pratt Institute. Its signage is an opportunity to make the message expressive. In my design, the gender signification – dress or pants of the figure – is covered by reflective surface. When user approaches the bathroom, they will see the gender sign is completed by their own image.
The using of reflective surfaces and fractures in the environment to evoke speculative reflection captures the committee’s imagination. The design was adopted by Pratt Institution for permanent use.
As one of the most prestigious art institution, Pratt has been long playing an active role in shaping a broader sense of American gender diversity. The Student Union building – used to be Trade Building – was one of three oldest building in Pratt’s long history. In 1897, the Trade Building was remodeled into a gymnasium designed by architect Ebenezer L. Roberts. The gymnasium included a swimming tank. Typical of Pratt’s integration of the community, the gymnasium was open to the public, and at its much publicized opening, the swimming tank was announced as the first pool to admit women in Brooklyn. “The biggest sensation of the day“, as Harbara H. McKeon and Helen Onufer commented in Prattler in 1954. In 1982, the building was remodeled into Student Union. The pool was covered, but is still intact. In 2013, architect and alumni Juan C. Mariz started a new renovation of the interior of the Student Union building.
In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Fourteenth Amendment to eh United States Constitution. In 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commission on Human Rights launched the nation’s first government-led citywide ad campaign assuring the rights of New Yorkers to access the restrooms consistent to heir gender identity regardless of their gender assignments at birth. I was invited to design the special signage for the gender-inclusive bathroom corridor area in 2017, which has a timely significance when many states were challenging accessibility legislation and or prohibiting trans and non-binary identities from using public restrooms or locker rooms in schools. The design complicated the gender symbol by scale, crops, angles, shards, placements and reflections own image or gender self-perception. This variable factors in the corridor provokes a range of interpretations but most commonly challenges the reading of binary dominance in the public spaces.