Future past
June 23, 2012 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Driving down the street in LA, you may notice coffee shops, gas stations or motels with bright primary colors, sweeping lines, bold angles and a retrofuture feel: Googie - Architecture of the Space Age

iO9 (GawkerMedia) collects some examples of Googie. The Guardian reviews Futuro:
Before the recession and the return of architectural probity, the phrase "like an alien spaceship" was all over architecture journalism like a cheap suit. Faced with anything that didn't look like a brick box, critics and headline writers would ransack their imaginations before inevitably reaching for the extra-terrestrial. Frank Gehry? Future Systems? Zaha Hadid? Yep, spaceship-mongers. Well there's only one building where that simile is inescapable, and that's the Futuro house, designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968.
Retronaut has examples from a children's encyclopedia, and the Seattle PI offers us a video and slideshow of the Seattle World's Fair, with lots and lots of Googie. ArchDaily writes: Googie Architecture: Futurism Through Modernism. One of the most prominent uses of Googie is at Disney, with the stunning mural The Prologue and the Promise

Eldon Davis(slideshow), LA architect who 'defined it and refined' Googie style, passed away last year.

Previously on MetaFilter:

Denny's Saved by Googie

Googie Wonderland

LA Time Machines

posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I have always wanted to live in the Jetson house. The future is failing me somehow.
posted by arcticseal at 9:40 AM on June 23, 2012

This is across the street, one of the last places I've seen with more 'Full Service' pumps than 'Self Serve'.
posted by carsonb at 9:44 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where I grew up, near Sturgeon Bay (Wisconsin), there was a motel like this. My friend told me it was "Googie" a couple years ago when I took pics. I can't find the pics now, but here it is on Google Maps.

It's really run down and decrepit, but yet it still stands. I wish it could be renovated. It's so awesome. Even the sign has that Googie Feel...

The street view still doesn't do it justice, alas, it's blurrier than I'd like it to be. Anyways, yeah... There's nothing like Googie, and you know it when you see it :)
posted by symbioid at 9:49 AM on June 23, 2012

As a kid I was aware enough of my surroundings to recognize this style as futuristic.

As a teenager I was jaded enough to see it as kitschy and lame.

Now as an adult I see everything as a bit kitschy and lame, and I want to see more of that traditional futurism I remember from the old days.
posted by General Tonic at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2012

My parents used to eat regularly at the Parasol (when it was still the Parasol). Alas, it's now a Panera, although the company that owns the lease on the building has at least maintained its basic character.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:25 AM on June 23, 2012

I had no idea that style had a name. Thank you for educating me. I live in a great little Mid-Century rambler and now I know what term to use when I'm searching for things!
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:32 AM on June 23, 2012

The authour seems unaware of Lautner's Chemosphere, built in 1960. Lautner was the actual progenitor of Googie, designing the coffee shop that named the style. Though he was not really interested in the Space Age as a motif, though some people like to put that spin on his architecture. He was much more interested in the definition and manifestation of space and volumes in Los Angeles, the strange, undefinable edge city without a strong sense of place (at the time). Nearly all his buildings reach into the landscape and retreat or shelter from it at the same time. His Googie coffee shop was meant to immediately catch the eye of motorists, get them out of their cars and into a restaurant. The building appropriated car culture as part of its own space, with huge windows that not only showcased cars, but the distant view of the Hollywood Hills. The borrowing of the greater Los Angeles landscape is strongly prevalent in throughout Lautner's work; he created intricate spaces the gave people the option of feeling sheltered and/or engaged in the larger world, depending on where you were in the building. There's a lot of interesting territorial consideration in his work, and it should be noted that Lautner really didn't like Los Angeles- he thought it was an ugly city. Yet it drove his response as an architect. He wasn't a futurist, though, as much as he enjoyed technology of materials and machines, he was designing for the Los Angeles of the present, not an imagined future.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:37 AM on June 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Wow, that io9 gallery is bookended by a sign I used to see all the time as a child and a sign that I see regularly now.

It's like my life's been wrapped up in a gleaming spire of the future, where everything's underlit with neon and you travel around on Peoplemovers.

I always loved this design style. It was what I knew growing up, the faded signs of cheap coffee shops and barely-surviving mom & pop shops, the curve of a shining white support beam in Tomorrowland, the future as now, "keep moving forward".

A good Googie-style building will make a million more times homesick than any palm tree, homemade burrito, hazy sunset on a warm summer's evening, or giant mall. All those aerospace industry suburbs tried to sell their vision of the future, and I grew up in the slowly fading remains.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:59 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Monsanto House of the Future is one of the few things I remember about my single childhood trip to Disneyland.

Also, in the mid-80s I took a self-directed architectural photography tour of LA. Many of my subjects were in the Googie style. Thanks for reminding me to find those images and digitize them!
posted by trip and a half at 12:32 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Googie architecture captured my love as a little kid living at Disneyland. Once I did a huge research project on the style in college, I realized the degree to which Los Angeles-developed art impacted the rest of the 1950s aesthetic was immense, and now I love it all even more. The lack of Lautner talk here makes me sad, though. He's the man when it comes to the Googie/mid-century modern Los Angeles scene.
posted by Hello Darling at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2012

The Lautner Foundation has plans and a list of buildings.

You can even stay at the Hotel Lautner in Palm Springs. Here is an older, laudatory essay, and I dug up the website for Infinite Space, a documentary on Lautner. There is a trailer there as well.
Triangle Modernist Houses has a nice page with lots of photos of Lautner's work, and NPR has a profile.

Lautner Associates is still a going concern. I suggest browsing their site.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:31 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Glad to see Zaha Hadid mentioned!
posted by rhizome at 1:38 PM on June 23, 2012

Oh. That's an I, not an L. Makes sense now.
posted by Night_owl at 2:20 PM on June 23, 2012

my user name is googie
posted by telstar at 4:26 AM on June 24, 2012

The most notorious and pervasive example of Zeerust in our culture. I love how the era's automotive design was strongly influenced by that aesthetic and was annoyed by how the actual vehicles of the future that I grew up in got further and further away from those early predictions.
posted by Selena777 at 3:43 PM on June 24, 2012

Oh. That's an I, not an L. Makes sense now.
posted by Night_owl at 2:20 PM on June 23

Unless you count lower case...

You know we don't! Whack!

posted by SPrintF at 3:46 PM on June 24, 2012

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