Planted in the heart of Manhattan in front of the Time-Life Building is a 12-foot-long, black powder–coated steel and concrete bench. It is etched with the iconic silhouette of the fictional hero as he appears in the opening titles of the show. (The Time-Life Building was the fictional home of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, subsequently changed to Sterling Cooper & Partners.)
“Like most designers, Pentagram has loved Mad Men since it debuted,” the designers write on their website, “living vicariously as Don pitches various brilliant campaigns in his position as Creative Director at Sterling Cooper.”
Before settling on the bench design, the designers say they considered a range of possible ideas.
The designers note the tradition of statues inspired by popular television shows and characters, including Mary throwing up her hat in Minneapolis, the home of the Mary Tyler Moore Show; Fonzie from Happy Days in Milwaukee; and Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners outside New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.
They considered “oversized Pop objects like Claes Oldenburg’s clothespin in Philadelphia and stamp in Cleveland, and Pentagram’s own needle-and-thread in New York’s Garment District,” they write, imagining “a giant fedora touching down in Central Park” or “a sky-high pair of Joan’s heels marching down Fifth Avenue” before finally setting on a piece of urban street furniture.
While Mad Men’s tantalizing set design has been credited with the current fervor for midcentury modern furniture, the designers say that they avoided recreating a period look, opting instead for an aesthetic that “echoes it in clean, smooth lines” to “make the monument the chicest, most sophisticated piece of street furniture in the city.”
The bench will be on display in the Time-Life Building Plaza at 1271 Avenue of the Americas (between 50th and 51st streets) through the summer.