You know those old buildings with the sloped or angled roofs? The ones that throw you back to mid-century America’s manic preoccupation with space exploration and the atomic age? (Think gas stations, motels, fast-food restaurants, diners, laundromats, car dealerships, airports, and drive-ins.) Well, it turns out that that bizarre style of architectural weirdness has a name: Googie.
(It’s OK. I hadn’t heard of it either until a couple days ago.)
The word itself is just cutesy enough to sound like an appropriate adjective for structures designed in this particular style. As in, “Ooh! Look at the googie Space Needle! It’s simply adorable!”
Or, “Dude. Don’t tell anyone how googie I got in Vegas.”
But, in fact, the moniker has a sweeter origin.
The origin of the name Googie dates to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed the West Hollywood coffee shop, Googies, which had distinct architectural characteristics…Googies was located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles. (Wikipedia)
And here’s what Googie turned into over the next couple of decades:
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 symbolic of motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as “soft” parallelograms and an artist’s palette motif. These stylistic conventions represented American society’s fascination with Space Age themes and marketing emphasis on futuristic designs….Some examples have been preserved, though, such as the oldest McDonald’s stand that was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. (Wikipedia)
As with any other rage, Googie went the way of the dinosaurs. Googies that once looked like this:
Now look like this:And so it goes. But no matter. I’m happy to have found a name for this iconic style. I’m happy that “Googie” is such a googie word. And I’m happy to have dug up a couple of awesome Googie illustrations that take me right back to the musty pages of the 1961 Childcraft Encyclopedias that were, when I was a kid, the Source of All Information.