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Whimsically Practical - Oct 17, 2011

by Susan Garot, Executive Director, Green Bay Botanical Garden

Concept for the Children's Garden restroom

Who would have thought building a restroom would require so much thought?  Well, when that restroom is located in the only Children’s Garden in a Botanical Garden in the state of Wisconsin (yes, us, Green Bay Botanical Garden), it has to be special!  And, more than special, it has to be whimsical.  And more than whimsical, it has to be practical!

So, in planning for this special, whimsical and practical new structure, we decided to take it to the experts, the kids and their parents who will use it most.

On Saturday, October 1, a mini “charrette” or design planning meeting was held with attendees at the Garden’s annual Fall Family Festival. Four families with children (ages 3 – 11) participated in this workshop, led by Dan Roarty, architect with Dimension IV.  Not surprisingly, these youngsters were very practical in their thinking.  
They all agreed we needed:

    • A “family” restroom

    • Child-sized fixtures

    • Doors that could not lock a child in

    • The structure needs to blend into the surroundings at the Garden

    • It shouldn’t be just a square building

    • There should be enough space for parents with not just children, but strollers, bags, and other “stuff”

    • There should be slip-resistant floors, no sharp edges, and heat when appropriate

    • The entryways should be visible to parents

    • Energy efficiency is important

Some of the “unexpected” (whimsicalities) that were mentioned:

    • Pictures/murals and plants to give it a “homey” feel

    • Hot tub (this came from an adult)

    • Fish in the toilet bowl water; a waterfall for a sink to wash hands

    • Dinosaurs to play on

    • A slide into the bathrooms, but not into the toilet

    • A reward machine (like m&ms) after a job well done (toilet training)

    • A talking toilet

When asked what it might look like:

    • A tree/treehouse

    • Straw bales

    • Hobbit House built into a hillside

A committee has been formed to review and continue to provide input into the design plans with Dimension IV.  The goal is to complete the design in order to bid the project over the winter and plan for a spring construction with the facility to be open in time for the busy summer season of 2012.  We’ll keep you posted on the progress.


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