written by:
March 12, 2009

Earlier this week I watched a truly fascinating documentary from 2008 called Married to the Eiffel Tower which ran on Channel 5 in the UK. It focuses on three women, each of whom identify as "objectum-sexuals," which is to say, they form romantic and physical relationships not with humans, but with objects. 

Eiffel Tower Brooklyn Museum

In the cases of the women portrayed, the objects of their affection more often than not are public works of architecture. Watch Part 1 and Part 2 of this 45 minute documentary.

Some are in love with the Berlin Wall—one, Eija Riita Berliner-Mauer (anyone who remembers their high school German will quickly deduce the origins of her surname) who was the first objectum-sexual to bring the small group’s amorous pursuits to public knowledge, has married the Wall—another loves the Eiffel Tower, still another is in love with a carnival ride dubbed 1001 Nachts. Their other loves—few object to polyamory in this camp—include a church organ called Paul, the Golden Gate Bridge, an archer's bow named Lance, the World Trade Center, a small bridge in Sweden, a smattering of fences and the Empire State Building.

Married to the Eiffel Tower has gotten a lot of flack in the small objectum-sexual community as a bottom-feeding brand of aren’t-these-folks-weird sensationalism, and I agree that the filmmakers do seem awfully interested in the physical mechanics of these womens’ relationships with buildings. What I found even more gripping though, was the incredible lengths to which the women went—the documentary asserts that all objectum-sexuals are women, though OS websites contradict that—to subjectify their beloved objects. By giving them names, assigning them genders, talking to them and building small effigies to adore when they are apart, the women seem to be denying the very objectness of their objects. Put another way, they don’t see their beloveds as inanimate, but rather as subjects with souls, spirits and personalities with which they are in telepathic contact.

The 1001 Nacht carnival ride is one of the beloved objects in the documentary "Married to the Eiffel Tower."

The flip side of this, and one of the elements that makes these relationships so odd, is that only the lover of the object is able to imbue the object with meaningful personality traits. Take for example the Berlin Wall, a fraught political symbol by any standard, yet one that has captured the hearts of two of the most outspoken objectum sexuals, Berliner-Mauer and Erika La Tour Eiffel (I’ll let you guess which landmark she wed).

Neither of them seems to care one bit about the political or social ramifications of the Wall, instead focusing on it as an object without context. Gone is the bitter history of Germany’s division; all the two women can see is what they want to see. La Tour Eiffel goes so far as to say that she feels she’s a part of the wall: created out of love, but now neglected and scorned. On the website detailing her love affair with the Wall, Berliner-Mauer even writes “We have been together now for many years, spiritually if not physically. Like every married couple, we have our ups and downs. We even made it through the terrible disaster of November 9, 1989, when my husband was subjected to frenzied attacks by a mob." Divorced from social realities, this particular fascination takes on a perverse, eerily solipsistic quality, though I suppose one could level that criticism at the whole notion of being in loving contact with an inanimate object.

Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer with her "husband" the Berlin Wall.

You might take issue with their claims that the objects communicate with them telepathically—the film argues for an experiential cause to the development of objectum sexuality, Asperger’s Syndrome in one case, severe childhood trauma and sexual abuse in another—and you’ll certainly squirm when you see one woman, her hands and face smeared in grease after a lovemaking session with the carnival ride, but the language these women use to describe their attractions to fences, bridges and towers would feel at home in any architecture school seminar.

They talk about the allure of clean lines, perfect geometry and the elegance of a steel curve in the same way students (or design magazine editors) do. In a strange way these women are all wonderful architecture critics; they heap attention on form, consider the heft and line of a structure with a candor and empathy that many critics lack. Granted they do it with the lusty enthusiasm usually reserved for locker-room chatter about shapely thighs and full lips.

Perhaps the most surreal scene in the film, and one of its giddiest moments, has two objectum-sexuals walking down the streets of Manhattan, gazing up at the city’s massive buildings and squealing with hormonal delight at all the strapping skyscrapers. One remarked that a person could go crazy with desire for all the lovely buildings around. Though perhaps not as amorous, their ardor is certainly akin to the sensation many of us have felt, a mixture of awe and glee at what we industrious little humans have built on that small island.

Photo of the Eiffel Tower courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.

Photo of 1001 Nachts courtesy of Carnibiz.

Photo of Eija-Riita Berliner-Mauer courtesy of Sujatha_Fan.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016