Miró Rivera Architects


This curious structure consists of 49 vertical weathering steel plates arranged along a spine that coils at one end to form a protected enclosure. The unisex restroom is ADA accessible and includes a drinking fountain and shower outside, in addition to a commode, urinal, sink, and bench inside.


With over two million visits per year, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is Austin’s most recognized and popular recreational area. At the time of its construction, this was the first new public restroom facility built along the trail in almost 30 years. Conceived as a sculpture in the park, the Miró Rivera Restroom heralded a new period of investment in Austin’s trail network that continues to this day.

Prior to the construction of this restroom, the facilities along the trail consisted of characterless, prefabricated concrete boxes that lacked ventilation, natural light, and connection to their surroundings. Increased demand on the trail as an accessible recreational outlet for the entire city meant that the lack of compatible facilities could no longer be ignored. Founded in 2003, The Trail Foundation set out to improve the character of Austin’s most prominent park space. When the construction of the nearby Mexican American Cultural Center forced the demolition of the restroom at that site, the organization approached Miró Rivera Architects to design its replacement (the architects donated their time across two years of planning and coordination).

The design of the restroom satisfies a one-dimensional programmatic function with an imaginative response. Inspired by the monumental steel works of artist Richard Serra, the restroom utilizes weathering steel plates to create a sculptural form. Staggered in plan to control views and to allow for the penetration of light and fresh air, the plates appear to grow out of the ground. Stepping inside is a complete sensory experience: you feel the weight of the ¾-inch-thick steel door, hear the crunch of gravel beneath the feet of the runners on the trail, and see the light washing down the walls around the roof, which looks like a steel lily pad floating in the sky.

By highlighting the natural beauty of the trail, the sculptural form of the restroom is a testament to the reasons that so many choose to call Austin home. Upon its completion, the Miró Rivera Restroom received a number of national and international design awards, demonstrating that The Trail Foundation was on the right track. Its success encouraged the construction of a series of bespoke restrooms designed by other local architects along the length of the trail. – Bud Franck

Photo Credits:

Ibai Rigby (1-2); Paul Bardagjy (3); Paul Finkel (4-8)