Beatriz Colomina, a professor of building at Princeton, was speaking Playboy( for the articles) about a decade ago when she stumbled across somethingshe deemedstrange. This was background research–Colomina was looking for grist on a guest speaker, a late-1 960 s experimental designer appointed Chip Lord, and Playboy had actually done a profile of him and his famed bubble-shaped House of the Century. This being Playboy , there werenaked women photographed in the house–but precisely a few. The story, and the photos, mainly focused on Lord’s unusual architecture. And at some moment I requested myself, What else is in Playboy ?
The answer, it turns out, is Playboy Architecture, 19531979 , an exhibit at the Elmhurst Art Museum in Chicago that collects what Colomina uncovered. In its 1960 s heyday, Playboy was a treasure trove of swoopy, lean, midcentury modern designing. Large-hearted mentions like Charles Eames, Mies van der Rohe, John Lautner, Eero Saarinen, and Buckminster Fuller all stood next to artful nudes and besuited bachelors–if not in person, than at least via their interiors, furniture, and floorplans. The more Colomina searched, the more she realise how much Playboy and midcentury modern threw each other life.
And as lives move, this was a pretty good one. Publisher Hugh Hefner wasnt sloping the post-war picket-fence-and-garage life. His was full of conversations about jazz and Nietzsche and the company of beautiful females. Men — real men–lived in cities, in bachelor pads. These newbachelor padswere signifiers of life lived interestingly and separately. To be seductive, theyhad to be intriguing.
Modern design, Colomina tells, became part of the material for seduction. In persona thats because of what modernism was not. In 1953 — the same time Playboy was born–the editor of House Beautiful wrote an essay called The Threat to America, dedicated in part to throwing van der Rohes germinal, open-plan Farnsworth House, in Plano, Illinois. Elizabeth Gordon condemned minimalist architects like van der Rohe as defenders of a gruesome, internationally forced style–maybe because that giant open area didnt lend itself to conventional, multi-room family life.
Playboy , on the other handwriting, greeted philosophers like van der Rohe and cavities not necessitate for kinfolks. The magazines editors utilized these designers to fabricate the notion of the Playboy pad, a space the Elmhersts professors describe as a cosmo of radical interiority and total milieu that prolong the skill of seduction. The writers even had hypothetical plans. The Playboys Town House, from a 1962 issue of the magazine, was originally to generate Hefner himself. The marquee feature–and ultimate signifier of money and leisure–was a wading pool in the atrium.
The layout for the Town House likewise saw with pages of concoction recommendations, rates, and places to shop–an extraordinary move for magazines at the time. Colomina answers Playboy ‘ s decided not to feature chairs, which were accessible in ways accommodations and indoor swimming pool were not, was particularly significant. They facilitated create a brand-new class of bachelor-consumer–patrons of decorators who still sell today and of publishings that furnish aspirational looks at paraphernalium and devices for modern living.( Like, you are familiar with, WIRED .)
To be clear, Playboy has always featured naked, or roughly naked, ladies. Was the high-end modernism the backdrop for them, or were they the backdrop for shelter porn? That was the bargain the magazine was trying to cut. To be aspirational , not smutty, it needed to consider not only the women in its sheets, but their encloses. In doing so, it created a scaffold for a new wave of decorators. Playboy may have needed design–but designneeded Playboy , too.