SAH News

Interview with Beatriz Colomina: Playboy Architecture 1953-1979

by Karrie Jacobs | Jun 01, 2016
"Playboy Architecture 1953-1979" is one of the most alluring concepts for an architecture exhibition in recent memory. On view at the Elmhurst Museum in suburban Chicago until August 28, the show positions Playboy, better known for its centerfolds, as the driving force behind the mainstream popularity of midcentury modern architecture and design in this country. It’s a provocative idea, made more so by the fact that the lead curator is Beatriz Colomina, a professor of architecture at Princeton University and founding director of the school’s Media and Modernity program (Pep Aviles, an architect and historian who’s currently a Princeton doctoral student, collaborated with her on the exhibition).

Colomina established her reputation in the early 1990s by examining the role of gender in the works of architects such as Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, and she was known for her passionate critiques of modernist architecture as an enabler of the “male gaze.” With her recent enthusiasm for Playboy, however, she has emerged as a remarkably unconflicted proponent of that gaze

How do you square your interest in Playboy with your earlier work on gender in architectural history?
Sexuality and architecture have always been interesting to me. But this question with Playboy, it started when I was working, not so much on early modern architecture, but on the 1960s and 1970s. At some point, I realized that many of these avant-garde architects were being presented in Playboy magazine.

How did you come to realize that?

I would invite surviving protagonists from that period, like Chip Lord from Ant Farm, to give a lecture at Princeton, and he’d send a CV. I’d look at it and I’d realize, "Oh, he was published in Playboy." The same with Hans Hollein. At some point we were interviewing him for an exhibition and he’d talk about how his Playboys were confiscated when he was going to Moscow to interview [Ivan] Leonidov. So I realized there was a lot of architecture in Playboy magazine, to make the story short. Of course, then I did a systematic study with the Media and Modernity students of Princeton in which basically I asked Princeton to buy all the Playboys from the very beginning.

To read the entire interview  click here
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