Written and photographed by : Smuel Aresenault-Brassard

Location :Ottawa Canada

Graphic Design :Peter Tomasek

I was instantly intrigued by the space and inspired to start a photography project on sex and architecture in Ottawa. I set out to create a contemporary taxonomy of the city’s sexual spaces. The project was bound to open up academic, sexual and philosophical discussion.

The first part of the project focused on bathhouses and glory holes. Throughout the process I discovered a whole sub-world hiding in plain sight. A world filled with its own rules, intricacies and landscapes.

There are many configurations of bathhouses, few of them including baths. The main areas are the rooms and lockers for rent. Customers have the option to rent a single or double room for a set amount of time, allowing them sexual encounters with other customers. Most establishments contain socializing areas such as dry or wet saunas, showers and bars. Some locations have glory hole cubbies, open or closed pornographic cinemas, or feature rooms with sex swings.

The darkness of the spaces surprised me. The darkest ones, in which the most sexual activities take place, such as glory holes, peeping booths and cinemas, are generally the gloomiest. The architecture is unseen, hidden in the dark. It remains cloaked, implied, furtive. In some spaces, the only source of light comes from the television playing porno videos in the neighbouring room. 

The walls, floors and ceilings are often painted black. It creates a surreal atmosphere, as if someone built a very specific part of our subconscious: Jung’s shadow materialized.

The sling room is dark and dimly lit with one red light. A Leather sling hangs by two metal chains from the middle of the room. FUCK ME is written in giant red letters on the back wall.

Sex through a glory hole is probably the most intimate relation humans can have with architecture. Users are essentially having sex through/with a building. These types of rooms inherit the potential to become an incredibly intimate space despite their traditionally abject status.

The actual shape of glory hole is different than that of the popular imagination has fashioned it to be. It is not an oval, but a tall rounded strip. The design is meant to increase accessibility and accommodate the varying heights of the patron’s crotches. Other variants include the wider hole that allows for anal intercourse, smaller circular holes (2-3 inch diameters) and glory holes with a sliding door. 

Sexual environments do not often enter the public conscience. A closer look reveals a series of intricate devices and erotically charged spaces. By exploring these territories, we can gain a fuller understanding of sensuality in architecture.


Samuel Arsenault-Brassard is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist studying architecture at Carleton University in Ottawa. He has played with pencil, ink, acrylic, dance, photography, wood, cloth, computer modelling, and 3D animation. He is interested in the intersection of performance art and architecture as well as the continued advances in digital hyper-realities.