Cool (?) Building Wednesday: The inner world of “Outer Planets”

Cool (?) Building Wednesday: The inner world of “Outer Planets”

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A few months ago, I told you of suburban Schaumburg’s unrealized circa 1970 plan for a complex called Outer Planets. It would have contained the world’s tallest building.

Quite a few of you emailed, asking to see more of the unbuilt development. So behold, today I give you concept plans for the residential interiors. Outer Planets’ inner‚ space, if you will—or more precisely, the bathroom suites that were proposed.

Let’s begin—shall we?—with the multi-colored bathroom above, where 2,000 years of interior design have been distilled into a single space with shower, vanity and adjoining bathroom. The columns and tub are inspired by classical Rome and Greece; the ceiling light reminds one of 18th century England perhaps? There’s maybe a dash of Art Nouveau (or “I Dream of Jeannie”) in the sink-top accessories.‚ Follow the abstracted waves of the contemporary Peter Max-like wallpaper. See where they lead? Right to the medicine cabinet where the Anacin or Dramamine are hopefully kept handy.

Next, for the tenants with no desire to keep up with the Neros who might have owned the above unit, there is this beauty:

The floors are parquet, but the wallpaper looks like the reverse side of a deck of Bicycle playing cards. This is a single man’s bathroom; a wife wouldn’t want those two cherubs peeking at her from beneath the sink.‚ And nothing said tres chic back then like the toilet and bidet combo. People would look at homes and then giddily report back to their friends, “It has a bidet.” Then they might eventually buy the house and stock the wine cellar with Martini & Rossi. But owning a bidet—why, that’s class.

In the bathroom above, I can’t quite figure out if the tub is beyond the toilet—or if that is a mirror reflecting an image behind us. But that red wall covering with the bar-graph design is so wickedly hip, so early 1970s, it needs its own theme song by Dave Grusin. Like this. And to say nothing of the blue sink. And I mean it: say nothing of the blue sink.

Did we ever see what Mr. French’s bedroom looked like in “Family Affair“? Because I think it must’ve looked like this—worldly, vaguely European and filled with plants that would only grow bigger in the steam from that double-decker showerhead: fact, the shower curtain doesn’t even go all the way around to reach the plants. That means they want you to water the plants as you shower—which might be worth a few LEED points today, so don’t laugh. The big coachlamp over the bathroom sink is worth noting, as is that neo-Byzantine (and impossible to clean) frame around the mirror.‚ And that small cabinet atop the sink? Is that to keep jewelry…or the sugar for the tea-set in the middle of the photo? The blue sofa—as blue as the sink in the previous bathroom—looks comfy and has a perfect view of…wait…what’s that in the lower left corner of the photo beneath my badly manicured thumb?

Just lovely. You’re sitting on the couch talking to a companion and then, “Um..hold on a second…” A conversation starter—or ender—if there ever was one.

The interiors were part of a thick presentation book that the Outer Planets developer created to win approvals for the project. Scoff if you will—and believe me, we have—but the truth is, this was kind of avant garde stuff for 1970’s suburban middle-America. The designs clearly attempted to bring a sense of contemporary, city-style, high-rise living to the land of split-level homes and backyard pools. Had Outer Planets been built, home decor magazines of the day would have been crawling over the interiors, gushing praise.

And it would have given us more images to see today.

Speaking of today: I’ll be lecturing and showing images of about 80 years of unbuilt Chicago projects this afternoon before the organization of‚ Commercial Real Estate Executive Women of Chicago.‚ Details here if you want to stop by.