Googie architecture  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Googie, also known as populuxe or doo-wop, is a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space Age and Atomic Age, originating from southern California in the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s. With upswept roofs and, often, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon, it decorated many a motel, coffee house and bowling alley in the 1950s and 1960s. It epitomizes the spirit a generation demanded, looking excitedly upward towards a bright, technological and futuristic age.

The Googie or Populuxe style of architecture was 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 reflected American society's emphasis on futuristic designs and fascination with Space Age themes.

As it became clear that the future would not look like The Jetsons, the style came to be timeless rather than futuristic. As with the art deco style of the 1930s, it remained undervalued until many of its finest examples had been destroyed. The style is related to and sometimes synonymous with the Raygun Gothic style as coined by writer William Gibson.



According to author Alan Hess in his book "Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture", the origin of the name "Googie" goes back to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed a coffee shop by the name of "Googie's", which had very distinctive architectural characteristics. This coffee shop was on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles, but was demolished in the 1980s. According to Hess, the name "Googie" stuck as a rubric for the architectural style when Professor Douglass Haskell of Yale 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." He made the name stick after an article he wrote appeared in a 1952 edition of House and Home magazine.


The identity of the first architect to practice in the style is often disputed, though Wayne McAllister is usually given credit for kick-starting the style with his 1949 Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Toluca Lake. 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 key member of the firm of Armet and Davis. Joining the firm in 1951, she created such iconic Googie interiors as those of the Johnie's Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the first Norm's Restaurant on Figueroa Street, and the Holiday Bowl on Crenshaw Boulevard.

America's preoccupation with space travel had a significant influence on the unique style of Googie architecture. Speculation about space travel had roots going as far back as 1920s science fiction. In the 1950s, space travel became a reality for the first time in history. In 1957, America's preoccupation grew into an obsession, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite to "break the surly bonds" of the Earth's atmosphere and "rise unshackled to the dark serene". The obsession intensified into a near mania when the Soviet Union launched Vostok 1 carrying the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into Earth orbit in 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 Space Race."

With space travel such an important part of the national zeitgeist, architects decided that they wanted to give people a little taste of the future in the here and now. Googie style signs usually have something with sharp and bold angles, which suggest the aerodynamic features of a rocket ship (illustration. left). Also, at the time, the unique architecture was a form of architectural braggadocio, as rockets were technological novelties at the time. Perhaps the most famous example of Googie's legacy is the Space Needle in Seattle, Washington (illustration, above right). A revealing comparison can be made between the Space Needle and the non-Googie Osaka Tower of 1966.


Googie heavily influenced retro-futurism. The somewhat cartoonish style is appropriately exemplified in 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). Three classic locations for Googie were Miami Beach, Florida, where secondary commercial structures took hints from the resort Baroque 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. Googie was also the inspiration for the set design style of The Incredibles.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Googie architecture" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools