Introduction to Googie Architecture
(some insight gleaned from Link)
Cars with jet-like tailfins zoomed past giant tiki gods, rockets and flying saucers on their way to Disneyland. In some ways, the Space Age, or Googie, architecture and design surrounding the park blurred the line between the Magic Kingdom and the real world.
The Space Age Inn, Satellite Shopland and the ultra-modern Bob's Big Boy restaurant were like extensions of the promise of Disney's Tomorrowland. Likewise, a giant tiki with glowing eyes standing before the Pitcairn Motel was nearly as intriguing to young visitors as the restless natives hiding in the jungles of Adventureland.
These are some of the more exotic examples of Googie, a style of architecture that thrived in the 1950s and early 1960s. It began as commercial architecture designed to make the most of strip shopping centers and other roadside locations. It fit the needs of the new California "car culture" and the dreams of the even newer space age.
Googie began in Southern California, and although it spread (in numerous forms) across the nation, its heart always remained in its birthplace. Los Angeles and Orange County, California remain some of the best places to see what remains of the style.
Googie has also been known as Populuxe, Doo-Wop, Coffee Shop Modern, Jet Age, Space Age and Chinese Modern. In some cases it has been grouped with its cousin, Tiki architecture. It is also sometimes identified as part of a larger overall movement of space-age industrial design. Googie often seems like a joint design by the Jetsons and the Flintstones.
The Elements of Googie
Various designers and architects represented the theme of man's utopian future in many ways. Like obscenity, Googie is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Some of the more common elements include the following:
Upswept Roofs -- This was especially common in the prototypical Googie buildings: coffee shops. An upswept roof allowed larger glass windows up front. Sometimes these roofs also incorporated the boomerang shape. Either way, it made many buildings look as though they were about to take off and fly. Variations on this style included the parabolic roofs of early Bob's Big Boy restaurants, designed by Armet and Davis.
Large Domes -- Often made of concrete, this was an exotic new shape for buildings made possible by advances in construction technology. It evoked the environment-controlled space stations and extraterrestrial cities that appeared on the covers of science fiction books and magazines. Some domes were reminiscent of flying saucers. Examples include the Anaheim Convention Center, the Cinerama Dome, and even the glass top of the 1956 prototype Pontiac Firebird.
NOTICE: Category is for architectural examples of Googie, ie; buildings & signs. However if a 1956 Firebird prototype is found, in a museum or privately garaged, we will accept it as a waymark.
Large Sheet Glass Windows -- These served several purposes. First, a tall glass front made the building itself a living billboard to drivers on the streets outside. This was a major consideration now that car travel was a key element of commerce. Also, the vast windows brought the outside in and made a sunnier brighter atmosphere for those inside. Often, the use of sheet glass with thin but sturdy steel support structures made roofs appear to float.
Boomerang Shapes -- This shape appeared in nearly every corner of the design world in the 1950s, and architecture was no exception. It appeared in archways, roadside signs, pools (often called kidney-shaped), and tile mosaics. Outside architecture, the shape was echoed in butterfly chairs, Formica patterns, corporate logos and textile prints. The origins of the boomerang as a symbol of the jet- and space-age is a little hazy, but it may be related to the "flying wing" aircraft, the expressionist art of Paul Klee and Joan Miro´, or simply the idea of an arrow shape pointing the way to progress.
Amoebae Shapes -- Sister of the boomerang, amoeboid shapes were amorphous blobs that appeared in many places, including roadside signs. Some suggest that these blobs were the predecessors of the boomerang. Some have also speculated that this design element came from World War II air defense camouflage patterns.
Atomic Models -- This design element appeared in everything from sculpture and roadsigns to dinnerware patterns and household appliances. The interlocking rings of the atomic model were a symbol of man's scientific ingenuity and represented the unlimited power that would make our future utopia possible. It also doubled as an (inaccurate) model of the solar system.
Starbursts -- An even more ubiquitous design element than the atomic model, the starburst took many forms. Just as the atomic model was shorthand for the "innerspace" scientists were exploring, starbursts were symbolic of the outer space being explored by astronauts. It also implied clean and shining surfaces.
Exposed Steel Beams -- These were usually more about appearance than function, but could serve both purposes. Painted steel I-beams often had geometric holes cut in them which served the dual purpose of making them lighter and enhancing their visual similarity to rocket gantries.
Flying Saucer Shapes -- Again, this motif was taken from the movies and covers of science fiction books and magazines. The Space Needle in Seattle, Wash. is an excellent example.
For your listening enjoyment
Go find yourself a copy of this.
We Got Ours!
For your reading pleasure
A great book
As of 12-10-2012 this category will be focused on Vintage Googie waymarks. Newer locations will need strong elements to be considered.