New Architecture Exhibit Explores Playboy's Luxurious Bachelor Pad Aesthetic

By Sarah Gouda in News on Apr 13, 2016 4:49PM

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Image from the exhibit via Elmhurst Art Museum

You'd be forgiven for not thinking "architectural innovator of the 20th century" when your brain processes the word Playboy.

But the magazine actually played a huge role in popularizing the luxurious aesthetic that dominated design and architecture from the 1950s through the 1970s. At the Elmhurt Art Museum, Chicagoans can see this vintage aesthetic firsthand at an upcoming exhibit titled "Playboy Architecture, 1953-1979."

The men's lifestyle brand recognized early that slick design could add appeal to the "Playboy fantasy," and they frequently ran features on architectural giants like Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. As you can see from the renderings, Mad Men owes quite a bit to Hugh Hefner and his penchant for mid-century modern furnishings.

Playboy was founded in Chicago in 1953, making the Elmhurst Art Museum an especially fitting home for the exhibit. Jenny Gibbs, the Executive Director of Elmhurst Art Museum, emphasized how important Chicago was to Playboy's evolution and vice versa.

“Chicago's modern architecture and design influenced cities around the world. Chicago-based Playboy magazine played no small part in that by championing Chicago architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright," she told Chicagoist.

The exhibit, which runs from May 7 to Aug. 28, will feature detailed models of the Playboy Townhouse and "Big Bunny," Playboy's giant, opulent private aircraft. The party jet was designed for Hugh Hefner and his legion of playmates by Elmhurst resident Daniel Czubak, who outfitted the plane with an elliptical bed covered in silk and fur blankets. Swinging sixties indeed.

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Image from the exhibit via Elmhurst Art Museum

The touring exhibition will feature photographs, films, architectural renderings, and design objects. Touches unique to the Chicago run include a staging of van der Rohe’s McCormick House as a Playboy bachelor pad. There will also be never-before-exhibited memorabilia from the personal collection of 1976 Playboy Bunny of the Year, Chicagoan Candace Jordan.

When we spoke with Gibbs, she also lauded the research of Professor Beatriz Colomina, the scholar behind the exhibit.

"Colomina's research presents a stylish introduction to how Playboy cultivated a taste for modern architecture and design as part of the Playboy fantasy and the Gesamkunstwerk [or form] which became known as the ‘bachelor pad,’” she said.

[H/T Curbed]