Maurice Mentjens

Photography: S. Technau

Cube design museum is the only museum in the Netherlands that is entirely dedicated to the design process. The museum highlights design with a purpose; design that is a response to human needs and emotions. This results in consumer elements that have an impact on the world. That is certainly the case for the Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Toilets exhibition: a manifestation of design that considers our relationship with lavatories. Maurice Mentjens was asked to design this travelling exhibition.

3D and 2D

The curators wanted to introduce the public to the industrial and social solutions for bathrooms and toilet facilities. The history of the toilet is displayed in eleven different themes relating to cultural use and changing perceptions about hygiene and the environment. ‘Cube selected a variety of objects for this: toilet bowls, urinals, and accessories,’ explains Mentjens. ‘These are supported by two-dimensional information in the form of texts, photographs, prints, and projections. This assignment also included the creation of a Design Lab, a place where the public and designers could come together to think about the future of toilets.’

sanitary white, opulent black

The exhibition at the Cube design museum had to be divided between two floors. ‘This is why we designed two clearly distinguishable parts: one in sanitary white, and the other in opulent black,’ says Mentjens. ‘The white level is bright and has a lot of light. This is where themes such as hygiene, environment, and health are explored and includes elements such as water consumption, recycling, and medical aspects.’ The second part of the exhibition explores the toilet as a social space; a place to meet or a place to find solitude. This space is often designed as a statement room in contemporary society and features opulent sanitary fittings, design accessories, and the comfort of a spa. More recent topics such as gender neutrality and emancipatory solutions are also included. ‘These emotionally laden aspects have been translated into a mysterious and dark atmosphere. Objects are placed against a black background and are theatrically lit with spotlights.’

tiled landscape

When it came to designing the route, the client opted for a ‘journey of discovery’. It had to have a flexible setup that took into consideration the fact that this is a travelling exhibition. ‘Our solution was to develop modular decks and a free-standing, meandering wall,’ explains Mentjens. ‘It creates a landscape that you can wander through. One of the decks is partitioned using a vertical exhibition wall. On the second deck are a row of toilet cubicles where projections create an additional experience.’ The connecting theme is the sanitary look. ‘Tiles are synonymous with bathrooms and toilets; especially the iconic 15x15 cm tile with grey joints.’ Because real tiles are relatively heavy and expensive, black MDF panels were covered with black and white melamine and then grooved with a line grid. ‘This was an effective alternative; easy to handle and can be sawn to size for use in other exhibition spaces. With the lighting we used, you can barely discern the difference between these and real tiles.’ design lab

Cube not only curates exhibitions, but is also a multidisciplinary laboratory. Here, visitors, students, and designers can actively work on finding solutions for social issues. In this case, that is the toilet of the future. This is actually an important topic as 1.5 billion people still do not have access to hygienic sanitation. The Design Lab has been decorated quite fittingly with sound-dampening rolls of toilet paper. The large tiled table features steps that invite you to ascend to a better world.

Cube design museum, Continium discovery center, and the Columbus Earth Center are part of Museumplein Limburg (Limburg Museum Square). This is an initiative of the Stichting Museum voor Industrie en Samenleving foundation (Museum for Industry and Society).

Maurice Mentjens
Martinusstraat 20

P +31 (0)46 481 14 05
KvK 14044737
Provincie Limburg
design & development: Atelier Fabien

Maurice Mentjens