Even though most women menstruate every month, it remains a topic that isn't openly addressed – and the bathroom ends up being the private space where women predominantly deal with the situation.
Industrial designer Lauren Lee noticed that for women the bathroom serves more than its intended purpose. It is a space where women are able to deal with "private matters".
Comfort and relief
She therefore took it upon herself to create the Warm Wall, a space that brings together the communal environment of the bathroom and the private matters of menstruation.
The Warm Wall is a wall consisting of porcelain tiles that are heated with electric wires. This heated wall provides some comfort and relief to the abdominal pain experienced during menstruation.
The wall has slight curved protrusions, making it easy for women to lean against. The protrusions flow with the body to allow the heat to penetrate the areas of the body that are usually in pain during menstruation. The idea is that such a wall could be provided in public bathrooms, allowing women to alleviate their menstrual pain.
"By creating a tangible public resource, this proposal seeks to address the taboo that has largely shaped women's perception of the monthly cycle as something that should be kept hidden from the public realm," Lee explains on her website.
The wall is not a medicinal cure for period pain, but simply a source of comfort during the menstruation cycle.
Heat has been known to ease pain. According to Dr Brian King, physiologist from University College London, “The pain of colic, cystitis and period pain is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to or over-distension of hollow organs, such as the bowel or uterus, causing local tissue damage and activating pain receptors. The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect – it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work."
This technology is similar to floor heating. According to Lee, "Periods are one of the few mundane experiences all women share within their lifetimes, and architecture and public spaces have little to no consideration for women's recurring needs."
Using various cardboard cut-outs, 3-D designs and human test subjects, Lee was able to work out the ergonomics of the wall.
"I looked at the manner in which women often subconsciously lean on the wall in casual conversation. Like a public bench, it would have to be minimal and subtle in order to be useful to all."
The Warm Wall forms part of Lee’s master's thesis project – she is a master's graduate from the Pratt Institute in San Francisco. Lee’s Warm Wall won the Fast Company’s 2018 World Changing Ideas Awards in the student category.
Although the Warm Wall is still in the prototype phase, Lee hopes to begin working together with architects to turn her project into a bathroom essential.
“If something is publicly provided in a restroom, it becomes more normal, and a shared experience, and you realise you’re not suffering alone,” says Lee. “Men can walk into a bathroom and already have everything they need. We’re expected to wear menstrual protection and go out and buy it for ourselves. The bathroom is something everyone uses, but it could be more empathetic to women’s needs."
Image credit: iStock