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 Living.com 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: beachboys.com)

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:

    “WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS NEVADA”

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


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