November 22, 2006

sign Ever since my post about Gila Bend, Arizona I’ve really been getting into the Googie architecture thing and wish somehow that I had gone to architectural school way back when, as architecture has always been something I’ve been interested in, at least from a distance (no pun intended!).

What is Googie architecture, you ask? This, from Googie Architecture Online (a VERY cool site, BTW):

Alan Hess, the author of Googie: Fifties Coffeeshop Architecture, traces Googie back to three Coffee Dan’s restaurants designed by John Lautner in the early forties.

“He selected the vaults and glass walls and trusses and angles of his buildings to fit the original, often unusual, concepts of space he favored,” writes Hess.

Lautner originated the style that would be refined and reinterpreted by many others. Unintentionally, he also gave the style a name when, in 1949, he designed Googie’s coffee shop at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles.

Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale was driving through Los Angeles when he and architectural photographer Julius Shulman came upon Googie’s. “Stop the car!” Haskell yelled. “This is Googie architecture.” While Haskell was dubious about the style, he made the name “Googie architecture” stick by using it in a 1952 article in House and Home magazine.

Growing up, I remember my folks would take us along the stretch of U.S. (Route) 1 between Lynnfield and Saugus, MA, and being enthralled by the cool restaurant and motel designs typical for the time – for example, the Prince Spaghetti House with its own “mini” leaning Tower (pictured in above link), the Kowloon Restaurant, and across the street, Frank Giuffrida’s Hilltop Steakhouse (pictured in above link) with the phony cows out front and the big cactus sign. (BTW, interested in some genuine classic Hilltop Steak House cocktail glasses? You can find them here).

What is it that attracts me so much to Googie architecture? I think, more than anything else, it was imaginitive, positive, and forward-looking, reflective of a post-war, pre-Vietnam era when, even amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the Cold War and the Space Race, anything and everything seemed possible. Googie designs reflected not only a preoccupation with space travel and the technological advances of the late ’50s / early ’60s, but the swelling prosperity of the baby boom generation where businesses sought to use their very architecture to market product and attract customers.

Along the way, Googie architecture inspired a number of similar non-traditional architectural trends, including Aloha (tiki) architecture (still seen in Chinese restaurant designs, not to mention The Great White Shank’s tiki bar!), and retro-futuristic architecture, and the novelty architecture found at any number of hotel/casinos along the Las Vegas Strip. (Hmmm…now I’m beginning to understand why I find Las Vegas so intriguing!)

If you’re interested in learning more about Googie and Googie-inspired architecture, these two wesites are HIGHLY recommended:

* Googie Architecture Online has a number of excellent articles, numerous way-cool pics, and what you can do to preserve Googie architecture in your neck of the woods.

* Googie Central at Road Side Peek features Googie-inspired architecture from across the USA, plus various road trips you can take that feature Googie-inspired designs.

* Lotta describes itself as “Your source for Mid Century Modern Lifestyle, Design, Art, Furniture and Architecture” – for those interested in taking Googie-inspired architecture inside your walls! Check it out!


On a related topic, the good news is that another famous piece of 20th century pop culture architecture – the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood – has tentatively been given monument status by the L.A. City Council:

Monument status would protect the building’s iconic exterior from being altered, although the structure could be used for other purposes.

The city’s Cultural Heritage Commission agreed in August that the building should be granted monument status.

The plan will now go before the full City Council for final approval. The celebrated tower, one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks and the world’s first circular office building, was the recording studio for such music legends as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and the Beach Boys.

Architect Welton Beckett designed the structure that was built in 1956, just north of the city’s storied intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, to serve as the headquarters of what was then the West Coast’s most powerful record company.

This sounds like great news. (Hat tip:

UPDATE: Evidently, the decision to give the building national monument status is now official. Nice work, L.A. City Council!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:43 | Comment (1)
1 Comment
  1. I like your article on Googie Architecture.

    Plus the fact that your talking about cool restaurants in
    my backyard that I probably have driven by at least a 100 times.

    Yes, those signs are potent, Try to GOOGLE Betty Willis.

    She’s the women that designed the famous:


    Comment by Cubby — November 24, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Search The Site

Recent Items


September 2021
April 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006



4 Goodboys Only

Site Info