Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Naked Hunch: Designing a bathhouse with the aim of destigmatising the naked body

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posted on 2022-07-31, 22:55 authored by Ong, Olivia

Collective and biased perceptions constantly reinforce social stigmas surrounding the naked body. Bodies of difference, those that deviate from societal norms are often considered ‘othered’ and as a result of this, judged or shamed. Today, the topic of body image is even more prevalent within mainstream conversations, with calls to see more diversity represented in mass media. This work investigates how the built environment has both the power to reinforce these societal norms and negative paradigms or to support changes in social behaviours, attitudes, perceptions and bias.

Drawing from the contemporary discourse of nudity and stigma, safe spaces and New Materialism, this research will investigate how architecture might contribute to the reduction of stigmas around the naked body, normalize bodily difference and generate more inclusive social attitudes towards acceptance and belonging.

This thesis argues that by designing a space for individuals to express their nakedness and be exposed to naked bodies a shift towards the redefining of perceived norms and a challenge, to what this study asserts are outmoded stigmas, can be mounted. This research argues that the bathhouse is seen as a poignant space to challenge stigma due to the obvious relationship between the space and the body, but also as a site of heightened sensual experiences within an atmosphere that differs greatly from everyday domestic and commercial spaces we inhabit. A design-led research methodology coupled with participatory research approaches will be employed todirect the design through a series of stages. These being social, the interaction of people with people, spatial, the interaction of people with space and material the interaction of people with materiality. The combination of these approaches will enable on-site engagement as well as human engagement as a means of investigation and reflection. Implications of this research will contribute to discourse and knowledge in three key areas: architecture and the body, bathhouse architecture and the cultural/social movement of body positivity and normalising bodily difference.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

970112 Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


O’Sullivan, Nan O’Sullivan; Merwood-Salisbury, Joanna; Scott, Rosie