Undercover Design Investigation: Brisas de Amor

Panama is home

to some pretty unique establishments, including roadside Chinese furniture stores, Fondas (where you can get a home cooked meal out of a house!) and colourful mini-supers (cross-breed between a convenience store and a supermarket), but the strangest of all has to be the local PUSH that I drive by on the Pan-American highway.

A view of the 24-hour Brisas de Amor "love-shack" from the Pan-Am highway.

I’m so glad you asked!

A PUSH is a term given to the 24-hour motel-esque establishments (comprised of a garage and bedroom) that are located throughout Panama. It’s called a PUSH because you “push” a button to close the garage door behind you when you drive in. I guess what I’m trying to say is: A PUSH is a pay-by-the-hour sex-shack.

A view of the PUSH from the exterior - a bunch of garage entrances remain open and vacant.

The PUSH and attracts a variety of patrons, mostly those who are looking to get away from their crowded family homes in order to spend some “quality” time with a loved one…

But really, a PUSH is most often used by corrupt politicians and prominent members of society who are looking to have affairs. (GROSS, right?!). The beauty of the PUSH? The entire process is completely “private” and anonymous.

Naturally, I had to explore the PUSH and see what it’s all about for myself (from a professional design-based perspective, of course!). Luckily for me, I had a few accomplices who accompanied me on my PUSH investigation. We had no idea what to expect.

Would the rooms be dirty? Ugly? (No doubt, I assumed) Large? Small? How many beds? We were about to find out!

A view of the garage as we pull in with our car. The sign warns you to turn off your car ignition since the exhaust fumes can be fatal.

Matt, Meaghan and Jeff the Passport-to-Design-Mascot hanging out in the garage. "How do we get into the bedroom?!"

After pulling into the garage, you PUSH a button to close the garage door. The button is connected to a censor that alerts the PUSH manager that there’s a new visitor. Suddenly, we heard a man’s voice call out from behind the closed bedroom door.

The man requested payment before unlocking the door.

A narrow slit wide enough for a few bills is used to pass money through to the PUSH manager.

A view of the money slot from the inside of the bedroom.

The manager took the money, unlocked the door and disappeared through an alternative exit in the bedroom. We NEVER saw the manager (more importantly, the manager never saw US). It’s all part of the creepy anonymity.

$13.00 US will buy you 2 hours of privacy.

And what did we see inside?

On the inside: A raised platform bed, a wall-mounted TV at the foot of the bed, a sitting area, and a "sealed" package containing a towel, a condom and two breath mints on the bed. Clearly, the bed is the big-ticket furniture item here.

A view of the other side of the room - a full bathroom with shower, sink and toilet; and the shallow hallway that leads to the alternative exit.

Jeff the Passport-to-Design-Mascot investigates the sliding window.

If you want to order a drink or even food (they have pizza and chicken fingers on the menu!) you slide open the window, yell out an order into a small closet with an opposite facing sliding window and then close the window. When your order is ready, there’s a knock on your sliding window. You open the window, leave the money on the ledge and knock on the opposite window. Crazy, right?! No one will ever see your face.

A TV is mounted way too high for comfort at the foot of the bed. Beside the TV is the PUSH menu poster.

As expected, there was a very strange sense of decor.

  • Each wall was painted a different colour and only two walls had a wallpaper border (and the ceiling-mounted mirror was bordered with a multi-tiered, colourful ceiling treatment). Let’s not forget that the walls were VERY THIN. We could hear other people using the PUSH. *shudder*
  • The bedspread had a floral pattern (hardly the kind of pattern that screams “sexy”?!) which is no doubt used to disguise stains.

Yes, that IS a ceiling-mounted mirror above the bed, and the headboard is made of mirror as well.

Log cabins and pine trees on the wallpaper border (this is NOT a typical Panamanian scene!)

  • The bathroom light fixture was extremely out of place.
  • The light bulbs each had different colour temperatures - the bathroom glowed “blue” while the bedroom was a combination of “blue” and “yellow” (tungsten and compact flourescent lamps).

A frosted glass seashell light fixture with a CFL lamp in the bathroom.

  • The floating bedside table was clearly an after-thought. Although, at least someone recognized that there’s no where to put your beer when using the bed.

This wall-mounted side table looks ridiculous, but at least serves a function.

  • A grouping of controls for the radio in the room: one dial to change the station and another to control the volume, as well as a telephone (no idea who this is used to call).

Radio station and volume controls alongside a telephone.

  • An unusual identification of an overhead smoke detector. I have no idea why this requires written identification – probably because most locals will have no idea what this unit is. I’d be surprised if the smoke detector actually functions.

A ceiling-mounted smoke detector is identified with signage.

  • On the exterior: bright, neon lights illuminate the exterior that is decorated with a typical Panamanian mosaic tile design. The building resembles some kind of bowling alley or night-club hanger. Very strange.

The side of the Brisas de Amor building - quite the fancy facade!

And there you have it. A glimpse into one of the most mysterious venues in Panama.

Now, I must admit that I added a grunge-y filter to the photos, just to help convey how the space actually FELT. The room was surprisingly “clean” in terms of dust and dirt, but the atmosphere was particularly shady and disgusting.

I feel that the only way to showcase the PUSH properly is to play up the dirty grind-house feel of the interior. :)

Goofing around in the Brisas de Amor PUSH. The ceiling-mounted mirror made for some serious laughs!

And I must also admit that we had SO MUCH FUN.

We felt naughty for prying, but then again, I’m sure everyone who stops off at the PUSH feels quite naughty themselves (for different reasons, obviously).

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting that! I appreciated the ceiling shots of your entourage!

    If you are considering Toronto for your photo essay I would be pleased to be your guide!

    david pylyp

  2. Ah, you’ve done it again, Tania. Another entertaining escapade. And you knew there were no hidden cameras because?

    I had a similar adventure in Penang, Malaysia, many moons ago and let me tell you the Panamanian Push looks plush in comparison.

  3. The pictures taken in the ceiling mirror…hilarious! Hope you guys washed your hands after you left. :)

  4. Thanks for reading, David! I would love to do a Toronto-based photo essay…it’s my hometown, after all :) What do you do in Toronto?

  5. Oh gosh, Robyn, I can’t imagine what a Malaysian Push would be like! HAHA! Thanks for the visual ;) And thanks for reading and commenting!!

  6. I have about 25 photos of all of us in the mirror, Chris. They are equally hilarious and yet some of them wildly inappropriate for this blog ;) We washed our hands at the PUSH and then realized the irony of our actions and instead slathered on the hand sanitizer in the car. ;)

  7. Well it is very good you have educated your readers – without you some people could be caught in an awkward situation. Lol!
    So happy you and Jeff {the mascot} are having fun, love seeing your posts!

  8. There’s just something uber-raunchy seeming about slipping cash through a little slit like that. It reminded me of a road trip stop we made at a Subway restaurant in Gary Indiana. We had to pay the clerk through a tiny revolving door because she was working behind a giant wall of bulletproof glass.

  9. Staci it’s true! We have a friend who thought it was a hotel but very quickly realized he was in the wrong spot when he never found a reception desk and when the garage door closed behind his car ;) Hopefully it won’t happen again thanks to this post :)

  10. Nothing should ever be paid for through a tiny slit – it definitely indicates raunchiness! :) Thanks for reading, Swail.

  11. oh the memories.

  12. …they will last a lifetime.

  13. I was just shown this by John July. I had told him this place was a “Push” when we passed it on the highway, and tried to explain to him what a PUSH was, because, believe it or not, he had not heard of one though we have been in this area for 3 years. Then he found this on your site. Don’t know how I missed it on the “feed”. Anyway, pictures are better than 1000 words, or something like that, heheheheheheh. NOW he knows the inside and out of a PUSH! Thaks for the visual.

  14. a glad there’s no more confusion in regards to what happens at the Brisas de Amor, Ellen ;) Happy you enjoyed the photos! Thanks again for reading, love to see you on the message boards here!

  15. I am no longer positive where you’re getting your info, however great topic. I must spend some time learning more or working out more. Thanks for great info I was on the lookout for this info for my mission.

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