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Googie architecture (also known as populuxe) is a form of novelty architecture and a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space and Atomic Ages.[1] Originating in Southern California during the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s, the types of buildings that were most frequently designed in a Googie style were motels, coffee houses and bowling alleys. The school became widely-known as the Mid-Century modern style, and some of those more notable variations represent elements of the populuxe aesthetic, as in Eero Saarinen's TWA Flight Center.

Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Googie was also characterized by Space Age designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as "soft" parallelograms and the ubiquitous artist's palette motif. These stylistic conventions represented American society's fascination with Space Age themes and marketing emphasis on futuristic designs. As with the Art Deco style of the 1930s, Googie became less valued as time passed, and many buildings built with this style have been destroyed.

Contents

Origins

The origin of the name Googie dates to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed the coffee shop Googie's, which had very distinctive architectural characteristics.[2] Googie's was located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles but was demolished in the 1980s.[3] The name Googie remained as a rubric for the architectural style when Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale University and architectural photographer Julius Shulman were driving through Los Angeles one day. Haskell insisted on stopping the car upon seeing Googie's and proclaimed. "This is Googie architecture."[2] He popularized the name after an article he wrote appeared in a 1952 edition of House and Home magazine.[4][5]

History

Googie's beginnings are with the Streamline Moderne architecture of the 1930s.[6] Alan Hess, one of the most knowledgeable writers on the subject, writes in Googie: Ultra Modern Road Side Architecture that mobility in Los Angeles during 1930s was characterized by the initial influx of the automobile and the service industry that evolved to cater to it. With car ownership increasing, cities no longer had to be centered on a central downtown but could spread out to the suburbs, where business hubs could be interspersed with residential areas. The suburbs offered less congestion by offering the same businesses, but accessible by car. Instead of one main store downtown, businesses now had multiple stores in suburban areas. This new trend required owners and architects to develop a visual imagery so customers would recognize it from the road. This modern consumer architecture was based on communication.[7]

The new smaller suburban stores were essentially signboards advertising the business to vehicles on the road. This was achieved by using bold style choices, including large pylons with elevated signs, bold neon letters and circular pavilions.[9] Hess writes that due to the increase in mass production and travel during the 1930s, Streamline Moderne became popular due to the "high energy silhouettes its simplistic designs created."[10] These buildings featured rounded edges, large pylons and neon lights, all symbolizing, according to Hess, "invisible forces of speed and energy", that reflect the influx of mobility that cars, locomotives and zeppelins brought.[10] Streamline Moderne, much like Googie, was styled to look futuristic to signal the beginning of a new era – that of the automobile. Drive-in services such as diners, movie theaters and gas stations built with the same principles developed to serve the new American city.[10] Drive-ins had advanced car-oriented architectural design, as they were built with a purely utilitarian style, circular and surrounded by a parking lot, allowing all customers equal access from their cars.[11] These developments in consumer oriented design set the stage for Googie during the 1950s, since during the 1940s World War II and rationing caused a pause of development due to the imposed frugality on the American public.

The 1950s, however, celebrated its affluence with decadent designs. The development of nuclear power and the reality of spaceflight captivated the public’s imagination of the future.[12] Googie architecture exploited this trend by incorporating energy into its design with elements such as the boomerang, diagonals, atomic bursts and bright colors.[13] According to Hess, commercial architecture was influenced by the desires of the mass audience.[14] The public was captivated by rocket ships and nuclear energy, so, in order to draw their attention, architects used these as motifs in their work. Buildings had been used to catch the attention of motorists since the invention of the car, but during the 1950s the style became more widespread.

The identity of the first architect to practice in the style is often disputed, though Wayne McAllister is often given credit for starting the style with his 1949 Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank.[8] McAllister got his start designing Streamline Moderne drive-ins during the 1930s and did not have any formal training as an architect.[15] McAllister developed a brand for coffee shop chains by developing a style for each client – which also allowed customers to easily recognize a store from the road.[16] Along with McAllister, the most prolific Googie architects were John Lautner, Douglas Honnold and the team of Louis Armet and Eldon Davis. Also instrumental in developing the style was designer Helen Liu Fong, a member of the firm of Armet and Davis. Joining the firm during 1951, she created such Googie interiors as those of the Johnie's Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the first Norms Restaurant, and the Holiday Bowl on Crenshaw Boulevard.

America's interest in spaceflight had a significant influence on the unique style of Googie architecture. During the 1950s, space travel became a reality for the first time in history. During 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite to achieve Earth orbit. The Soviet Union then launched Vostok 1 carrying the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into Earth orbit during 1961. The Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations made competing with the Soviets for dominance in space a national priority of considerable urgency and importance. This marked the beginning of the so-called "Space Race".

Googie style signs usually have something with sharp and bold angles, which suggest the aerodynamic features of a rocket ship. Also, at the time, the unique architecture was a form of architectural braggadocio, as rockets were technological novelties at the time. One famous example of Googie's legacy is the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington. Other contemporary tower design philosophies were often less ornate, ranging from straight-edged steel lattice structures like the Osaka Tower and Beppu Tower in Japan, to the mixed heritage of European concrete towers like the very-visible Fernsehturm Berlin or the Fernmeldeturm Kühkopf.

Characteristics

The TWA Flight Center terminal at the John F. Kennedy International Airport shows populuxe influence even while considered a mainstream classic of mid-modern public space

Cantilevered structures, acute angles, illuminated plastic paneling, freeform boomerang and artist's palette shapes and cutouts, and tailfins on buildings marked Googie architecture, which was contemptible to the architects of Modernism, but had defenders during the post-Modern period at the end of the 20th century. The common elements that generally distinguish Googie from other forms of architecture are:

  • Roofs sloping at an upward angle - This is the one particular element in which architects were creating a unique structure. Many roofs of Googie style coffee shops, and other structures, have a roof that appear to be 2/3 of an inverted obtuse triangle. A great example of this is the famous, but now closed, Johnie's Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.
  • Starbursts - Starbursts are an ornament that is common with the Googie style, showing its Space Age and whimsical influences. Perhaps the most notable example of the starburst appears on the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, which has now become somewhat famous. The ornamental design is in the form of, as Hess writes, "a high-energy explosion."[17] This shape is an example of non-utilitarian design as the star shape has no actual function but merely serves as a design element.

The boomerang was another design element that captured movement. It was used structurally in place of a pillar or esthetically as a stylized arrow. Hess writes that the boomerang was a stylistic rendering of a protruding energy field.[18]

Douglas Haskell described the abstract Googie style, saying that "If it looks like a bird, this must be a geometric bird."[19] Also, the buildings must appear to defy gravity, as Haskell noted: "...whenever possible, the building must hang from the sky."[19] Haskell's third tenet for Googie was that it have more than one theme—- more than one structural system.[19] Googie was not a style noted for its subtlety.

One of the more famous Googie buildings is the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), designed by James Langenheim of Pereira and Luckman and built during 1961.

One of the last remaining and largest Googie-styled drive-in restaurants, Johnie's Broiler in Downey, California, was partially demolished during 2007.

Districts

Wawa gas station, Wildwood.

Classic locations for Googie or Doo-Wop buildings are Miami Beach, Florida, where secondary commercial structures were adapted from the resort style of Morris Lapidus and other hotel designers; the first phase of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Southern California, where Richard Neutra built a drive-in church in Garden Grove.

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Wildwood, New Jersey

The beachfront community of Wildwood, New Jersey, features an array of motel designs, colorfully described by such sub-styles as Vroom, Pu-Pu Platter, Phony Colonee and more.[20][21] The district is known collectively as the Wildwoods Shore Resort Historic District by the State of New Jersey.[22] The term "doo-wop" was invented by New Jersey's Mid-Atlantic Center For The Arts during the early 1990s to describe the unique, space-age architectural style. Many of Wildwoods Doo-Wop motels were built by Lou Morey, who specialized in such designs.[23] His Ebb Tide Motel, built during 1957 and demolished during 2003, is credited as the first Doo-Wop motel in Wildwood Crest.[24]

Googie architecture today

The once iconic observation towers from the 1964 World's Fair in Queens, now in a state of neglect

The architectural community never appreciated or accepted Googie, considering it too flashy and vernacular for academic praise.[25] The conventional architecture of the 1970s (especially Modernism) represented this by forsaking Googie style. Postmodern architecture in turn replaced Modernism. As Hess discusses, beginning during the 1970s, buildings were meant to blend in to the urban sprawl, not attract attention.[26] Since Googie buildings were part of the service industry, most developers did not think they were worth preserving as cultural artifacts.[27] Despite the humble origins of Googie, Hess writes that, “Googie architecture is an important part of the history of suburbia.”[28] Googie was a symbol of the early days of car culture. It wasn’t until the 1990s that efforts at conservation began.[29] By this time it was too late to save famous landmarks such as Googie’s and Ship’s which were demolished.[30] Despite the loss of these important landmarks, other famous Googie buildings such as the Wich Stand and some of the original Bob’s Big Boy locations have been preserved and even restored to their original appearance.[31]

In Wildwood, a "Doo Wop Preservation League" works with local business and property owners, city planning and zoning officials, and the state's historic preservation office to help ensure that the remaining historic structures will be preserved. Wildwood's high-rise hotel district that is the first of its kind in the nation to enforce "Doo Wop" design guidelines for new construction.[22]

Influence

Googie Architecture developed from the futuristic architecture of Streamline Moderne, but at the same time rejected it. While 1930s architecture was relatively simple, Googie embraced excess. Hess argues that the reason for this was that vision of the future of the 1930s was obsolete by 1950 and thus the architecture evolved along with it. During the 1930s, trains and Lincoln-Zephyrs had been advanced technology, and Streamline Moderne mimicked their smooth simplistic aerodynamic exteriors.[32] This simplicity may have represented the depression era’s forced frugality. Googie heavily influenced retro-futurism. The somewhat cartoonish style is appropriately exemplified in the The Jetsons cartoons, and the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California featured a Googie Tomorrowland (much of Tomorrowland still features Googie architecture, such as the Tomorrowland Terrace, Pizza Port, and Disneyland Railroad station). Googie was also the inspiration for the set design style of The Incredibles.

The eye-catching style flourished in a carnival atmosphere along multi-lane highways, in motel architecture and above all in Commercial signage. Private clients were the main patrons of Googie. Ultimately, the style became unfashionable and, over time, numerous examples of the Googie style have either fallen into disrepair or been destroyed completely.

Image gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (May 18, 2008). "Go on a SoCal hunt for Googie architecture". Baltimore Sun. Los Angeles Times. http://www.baltimoresun.com/travel/la-trw-googie18-2008may18,0,7267506.story?page=1. Retrieved 11 February 2009. "It was the 1950s. America was a superpower, and the Los Angeles area was the center of it. The space race was on. A car culture was emerging. So were millions of postwar babies. Businesses needed ways to get families out of their automobiles and into coffee shops, bowling alleys, gas stations and motels. They needed bright signs and designs showing that the future was now. They needed color and new ideas. They needed Googie." 
  2. ^ a b Hess 2004, pp.66-68
  3. ^ Langdon 1986, p.114
  4. ^ Abbott 1993, p.174
  5. ^ "Googie". TIME. 1952-02-25. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,816051,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-05. "Googie architecture, says HOUSE & HOME, is "Modern Architecture Uninhibited ... an art in which anything and everything goes—so long as it's modern ...". 
  6. ^ Hess 2004, p.26
  7. ^ Hess 2004, p.30
  8. ^ a b maps.google.com
  9. ^ Hess 2004, p.41-42
  10. ^ a b c Hess 2004, p.29
  11. ^ Hess 2004, p.39
  12. ^ Hess 2004, p.46-47
  13. ^ Hess 2004, p.47 and pp.192–193
  14. ^ Hess 2004, p.50-51
  15. ^ Hess 2004, p.36
  16. ^ Hess 2004, p.86
  17. ^ Hess 2004, p.194
  18. ^ Hess 2004, p.192
  19. ^ a b c Hess 2004, p.68
  20. ^ "The '50s and '60s Thrive In Retro Doo-Wop Motels". Washington Post. 24 June 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/22/AR2007062200682.html. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  21. ^ WildwoodDooWop.com
  22. ^ a b Doo Wop Preservation League Web site
  23. ^ History Section, DooWopStuff.com
  24. ^ Wildwood Crest Historical Society Web site
  25. ^ Hess 2004, p.66-69
  26. ^ Hess 2004,p.178
  27. ^ Hess 2004,p.1868
  28. ^ Hess 2004, p.186
  29. ^ Hess 2004, p. 184
  30. ^ Hess 2004, p. 181
  31. ^ Hess 2004, p. 184 – 185.
  32. ^ Hess 2004, p.46

References

Further reading

Books are arranged in chronological order by year of publication:

  • Learning from Las Vegas, by Robert Venturi 1972 (ISBN 978-0262720069)
  • Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture by Alan Hess, 1986 (ISBN 978-0877013341)
  • Populuxe: the Look and Life of Midcentury America by Thomas Hine, 1986 (ISBN 978-1585679102)
  • LA Lost and Found: An Architectural History of Los Angeles by Sam Hall Kaplan 1987 Pages 145-155
  • Southern California in the 50s by Charles Phoenix 2001
  • Los Angeles Neon by Nathan Marsak and Nigel Cox 2002
  • Mimo: Miami Modern Revealed by Eric P. Nash and Randall C. Robinson, Jr. 2004
  • Doo Wop Motels: Architectural Treasures of The Wildwoods by Kirk Hastings 2007
  • The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister by Chris Nichols, 2007 (ISBN 978-1586856991)

External links

Preservation groups working to save Googie architecture include


Simple English

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Googie is the term given to a type of architecture and art in the United States in the 20th century. It is also called Doo Wop, Atomic age, or populuxe. It was very futuristic, echoing themes of the 1950s as a whole. Some of Googie architecture was based on what spaceships look like. It started in California soon after World War II and spread to the rest of the United States in the 1950s. Many of the buildings built in the Googie style were coffee shops, bowling alleys and motels.

Here are a few famous Googie buildings:


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