Playboy Architecture


29 September 2012 - February 10, 2013

At NAiM/Bureau Europa | Avenue Ceramique 226 | Maastricht, Netherlands

The exhibition focuses on how the magazine Playboy deployed architecture and design to shape a new identity for the American man. The exhibition has been prepared in close collaboration with the Ph.D. program of the School of Architecture and the Media and Modernity program at Princeton University on the basis of a three-year research project led by Professor Beatriz Colomina.

Sex, architecture and design: from the very start they were inextricably intertwined in the pages of the world-famous erotic magazine Playboy. Interviews, articles, drawings, and glossy spreads featuring an array of architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller, Moshe Safdie, Paolo Soleri, Antfarm and Archizoom, along with the perfected photographs of sensual women and the famous centerfold as the climax, created a revolutionary and seductive cocktail for its masculine readers.

The exhibition Playboy Architecture, 1953-1979 shows how architecture and design played a crucial role in the Playboy fantasy world and in reverse how Playboy came to influence the world of architecture. The architectural historian Sigfried Giedion characterized the architecture of the sixties as Playboy Architecture: “Rushing from one sensation to another and rapidly bored.” His colleague Reyner Banham, on the other hand, saw in Playboy’s combination of gadgets, pin-ups and popular culture “one of the greatest gifts to America and to Western culture,” proclaiming “I will crawl a mile for Playboy.”

The exhibition features original photographs and films, published and unpublished architectural renderings, design objects, interviews with architects and editors, and immersive environments. The dynamic installation of artifacts traces Playboy’s architecture of seduction from the magazine’s inception in 1953 through the 1970s, when its huge readership began transforming the Playboy fantasy into reality – supported by Playboy’s own chain of clubs and resorts, popular movies and television shows.

The exhibition demonstrates how Playboy introduced modern architecture to the mass public in an era of Cold War, political unrest, the emergence of feminism, the pill, and heated debates on modern architecture itself. Architecture and design were used to reshape masculinity – supposedly liberating the American male from the fetters of suburban family life to give him the chance to turn himself into a hotly desired design savvy urban bachelor – a precursor of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Sexual revolution and architectural revolution were inseparable.

Exhibition concept and curation by Beatriz Colomina, Director, PhD Program, and Britt Eversole, Federica Vannucchi, Margo Handwerker, Pep Aviles, Marc Britz and Daria Ricchi, PhD Candidates, Princeton University School of Architecture
Exhibition installation design by eventarchitectuur
Graphic design by Experimental Jetset
Photographs by Johannes Schwartz


For more information visit NAiM/Bureau Europa

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