Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens never ceases to amaze with its grand horticultural displays, and this year has been no exception. Yet, this winter, the famed Conservatory had one more surprise up its sleeve. In November, it received the prize for America’s Best Restroom.
“We are so pleased to win,” said Longwood’s chief marketing officer, Marnie Conley. “Longwood Gardens is about beautiful horticulture, being a good steward to our environment, and providing an extraordinary experience for our more than one million guests each year.”
The restroom in question is located just to the right of the East Conservatory at the end of a short hallway. Here, a massive green wall, measuring over 4,072 square feet, greets the visitor. Curving tantalizingly out of sight, the living garden is composed of more than 47,000 ferns, ivy, moss and other plants, all embedded into the wall in a lush composition with a thick woodsy scent. According to Longwood caretakers, the green wall produces as much oxygen as 90 fourteen-foot trees.
Over 17 private restroom chambers are built right into the green wall. Inside, etched glass skylights provide natural light and contribute to the whole eco-friendly vibe. Visitors enter into the chambers through sleek metal doors tucked into the fragrant greenery.
The whole idea of the green wall arose out of the practical need to provide more restrooms for Longwood’s growing number of guests. While seemingly simplistic in form, the vertical garden was very difficult to construct.
Given the large number of different species lodged in the wall, caretakers needed to design the space to accommodate varying needs for water and light. To accomplish this, they carefully erected 3,590 modular panels and embedded them with plants categorized according to their particular light preferences. They also installed computer sensors to regulate the temperature and control the flow of water to each species.
So far, visitors have been so intrigued with the idea that they have been coming specifically to visit the restrooms, and Longwood Gardens’ green wall now has its own set of docents.
The competition is run by Cintas, a business uniform and supply company located in Cincinnati, Ohio that believes restrooms matter to the public. The company started the competition 13 years ago to recognize public bathrooms for their design, usability and hygiene.
“We are thrilled, truly flushed with pride,” said Danny Rubin, survey editor of Cintas’ contest about its newest winner.