Mad Men returns, and now it's time to speculate on the evolution of Peggy’s hair and the meaning of Betty’s dress choices" /> Mad Men returns, and now it's time to speculate on the evolution of Peggy’s hair and the meaning of Betty’s dress choices" />

Alexandra Lange

Hung Ceilings

Mad Men returneth! I am as excited as the next design geek, but must say all of the preview coverage has been deeply dispiriting. Alessandra Stanley had a few tidbits about where we’ll be after the falling man on July 25 (1964), but nothing new to say about the show. Steve Heller rehashed George Lois’s complaints of inaccuracy (look, we know the people on TV are better looking and blonder than reality). Which is why the most premonitory fun is to be had in speculating about the show’s more esoteric visual treats. Matthew Weiner has shown us we’re not going to guess the plot twist — and doesn’t it take some of the fun out of it to try?

So analyze the evolution of Peggy’s hair. Think about the meaning of Betty’s dress choices (those riding boots!). Or, if you are me, speculate about the design of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce offices. At the end of last season I wondered if we might leap ahead to the brown brick gloriousness of the Ford Foundation. But 1964 was a great year, the end and apotheosis of the rigid, color-coded, corporate art era of snap-in partitions and secretaries all in a row.

SCDP could look like CBS, just a few avenues over, completed that year.

But the style looks more reminiscent of Chase Manhattan, way downtown.

Of course, the teaser poster suggests no budget for secretaries or even furniture. When I tweeted last week about what building it could be, I got (unnecessarily) schooled on Lever House. Trust me, I know all about Lever House. What struck me as a possible anachronism was the floor-to-ceiling clear glass, the broadness of the panes, and the slimness of the building’s corner profile.

I think the shot is a set. Or a slight anachronism, for metaphorical purposes. It is not that floor-to-ceiling glass couldn’t be done (look at Mies’s Lake Shore Drive buildings) it is just that it wasn’t yet in offices. Here’s Seagram.

That hung ceiling (a sign the firm is in a second- or third-rate tower anyway) looks like it is about to crush Don’s ambitions.

Posted in: TV + Radio

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Alexandra Lange Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.


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