October 31, 2002 12:44 AM   Subscribe

Googie? Does your bowling alley have an inexplicable Tiki motif? Does your neighbor's house vaguely resemble a flying saucer? Does your coffee shop suggest, architecturally, that the secrets of the atom are being exploited within? Well now, you can call it by name. Googie. Who knew?
posted by condour75 (39 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
More Googie links. Also, an article about the LA Conservancy's effort to save Bob's Big Boy (among many other Googie landmarks) from the wrecking ball.
posted by faustessa at 1:03 AM on October 31, 2002

Cute! The landscape of my youth is populated by these kinds of buildings and signage. Sadly, most of the great ones I grew up with are now gone. Thanks for the link.
posted by sir walsingham at 1:10 AM on October 31, 2002

Best link EVER. Thank you. I took a course on modern architecture last semester -- they didn't even MENTION this shit.
posted by tweebiscuit at 1:10 AM on October 31, 2002

Wow, It has a dmoz entry and everything? I had never heard the word before tonight. But then, i'm not an Angeleno, and this stuff is rarer in these parts. Our diners tend towards the many-mirrored, chromed variety. More Bowser than Buck Rogers.. More Fonzy than Flash Gordon. More -- eh, i'll shut up.
posted by condour75 at 1:14 AM on October 31, 2002

Ships Restaurant was my favorite of all the L.A. coffee shops. I happened to live three blocks from the La Cienega location and dined there probably 3 times a week for two years.

One of the best things about that place (besides the beef brisket) was that every table was outfitted with a shiny metal toaster. Every meal came with your choice of bread, it was then up to you to toast it to your liking.
posted by perplexed at 1:22 AM on October 31, 2002

Perplexed, I'm so jealous of your Ships experience. I never got to eat there, but toasters at every table are so, so much better than phones at every table (a la Canter's).

Condour75, we've got a lot of the Fonzy stuff here in LA, too, though for some reason I feel like it's in imitation of some better Fonzy rounded chrome diner in some other place or in some people's memories or something.
posted by faustessa at 2:04 AM on October 31, 2002

My mom, upon the occasion of my first trip to LA as a four-year-old, insisted on taking me to Ship's. Oh, the glamour! It was indeed all that and two bags of chips. Ships. Whatever.

(shhh...not to be a prick..."googie" is a fairly well-known term in architectural criticism.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:14 AM on October 31, 2002

It's a damn damn shame that a lot of the Googie style is being slowly and surely wiped out of Los Angeles -- I remember the fabulous sparkly sheet rock interior of Norm's and other coffee shops around North Long Beach and Lakewood, and now they've all been gutted and replaced with pastel drywall...

Food tastes better with Googie around you -- has anyone else noticed that?
posted by Katemonkey at 3:18 AM on October 31, 2002

guess i'm cursed (blessed) with a real lack of this style of architecture in my parts...

beyond the mini putt, that is.

does it really have a place these days? not that every place should look the same, but still.
posted by phylum sinter at 3:30 AM on October 31, 2002

Okay, I'm showing my ignorance here: can somebody tell me how to pronounce this word? Is the second "g" hard, like in Google?
posted by squasha at 4:00 AM on October 31, 2002

Nice post! Entertainment for all.

Katemonkey, FYI: sheet rock and drywall are the same thing.
posted by Hall at 4:36 AM on October 31, 2002

sheetrock, rather.
posted by Hall at 4:36 AM on October 31, 2002

Oh my god! This is so cool - I'm dying!

Why can't modern buildings be more like this? Harry Seidler - you've got some serious 'splainin' to do!
posted by backOfYourMind at 4:36 AM on October 31, 2002

Interesting....I always wondered what those swiss cheese things were outside of apartments. Now I know.
posted by Degaz at 5:03 AM on October 31, 2002

Ultra-retro-hip-cool. 'Nuff said.
posted by davidmsc at 5:04 AM on October 31, 2002

If the googie style, and more specifically, the "tiki" subset seem slightly inexplicable, this comment from Nathalie Wright, of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (regarding the old Kahiki restaurant in Columbus, as quoted in this Atlantic article) might help put things in perspective:

"Placed in its socio-historical context, Wright argued, the Kahiki vividly recalled a time when America inhabited a sort of South Seas Camelot. Songs from the movie musical South Pacific (1958) were on everyone's lips, Hawaii had joined the union as the fiftieth state just two years before (1959), and Elvis was starring in Blue Hawaii (1961). If historic buildings serve as cairns that mark our path as we march resolutely forward through time, we should preserve places like the Kahiki in the event we ever want to go back."

I imagine that Buck Rogers and the advent of the atomic age were, likewise, inspirations for a lot of "tomorrowland" architecture.
posted by taz at 5:40 AM on October 31, 2002

Hall: Oh, whatever it is. The glittery rocks on the wall. I always called it sheetrock, 'cause they were in sheets.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:05 AM on October 31, 2002

Long or short vowel sound in the first syllable? Goo like "boot", or like "foot"?

Inquiring minds and all.
posted by TuffAustin at 6:43 AM on October 31, 2002


*puts on some lounge music to listen to while he peruses this site*
posted by rushmc at 7:55 AM on October 31, 2002

Are there any Googie-inspired architects out there ? !
posted by taratan at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2002

for some reason I feel like it's in imitation of some better Fonzy rounded chrome diner in some other place

It probably is. You can buy them brand-new and ready to rock.
posted by cairnish at 8:34 AM on October 31, 2002

theres a bar that just went up down the street from me that has elements of this architecture, the big vertical slab with holes (or a hole) and some other seemingly superfluous architectural features. They did them in cinderblock though, with neon (this is in Vegas). I'll try grabbing snapshots on the way to work...
posted by mutagen at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2002

Wow, far out was always what I thought of when I saw this architect type. Now I can better describe the type of architecture I grew up with as a child.There gone now, but most of your Motels had this design around Disneyland for it's first 25 years.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:43 AM on October 31, 2002

tweebiscuit writes: I took a course on modern architecture last semester -- they didn't even MENTION this shit.

That's a great shame, and I suspect that what you experienced constitutes an inexcusable elitism as it is a very accessible roadside architecture; designed to impress the unwashed masses such as thee and me, not other architects . The style is very familiar to any student of graphic design, however. Next time you're in a very well-stocked bookstore or library, go to the sections on design and graphic design -- you would be surprised how well-represented (and beloved) Googie is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:13 AM on October 31, 2002

The glittery rocks on the wall.

Katemonkey this is stucco with glitter added in, you are refering too, as it was on the outside of the buildings.

I lived in a house for a time with white stucco and black trim, I dreaded it as the sparkles of the glitter really stuck out, yuck for homes. All of the other homes on the block had it at one time, lucky folks. To be honest it seemed like a Sears home improvement thing, no joke. Sears was a popular store when most of Southern California was being built up.

Ok for eateries, well, the glitter goes perfect with the lighting out front...........especially for the spacey effect.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:15 AM on October 31, 2002

A few years ago I bought this book on Googie. I'd never heard of the term, but I'd seen a lot of buildings like it. Lots of history, lots of pictures. Neat book.
posted by schmedeman at 10:34 AM on October 31, 2002

Angelenos take heart! There still exists a diner with toasters for your toasting convenience. It's Fred's 62 on Vermont. Nice retro design, toasters at the table and some pretty interesting art as well (can't quite remember who the artist is at the mo').

Also, the Baldwin Park area has some rather nice early/mid 60s home architecture (along Slauson around La Brea), as well as some Googie stuff.
posted by raygun21 at 10:56 AM on October 31, 2002

And since I'm a new member (but I've been reading forever, honest!) and cannot post to the front page, here goes:

Personally, as much as I dig Googie, I'm a bigger fan of mid-century modern: Panton, Eames, Eichler, Philip Johnson, and of course Koenig's Case Study Houses (used a heckuva lot in movies and tv).

And if you're commerce inclined there's a vast array of contemporary (not necessarily modern) furniture and accessories to buy. My fave places to look (but not buy sadly) are: Design Within Reach, Retro Modern, or even Ebay (no link, you can figure it out). Just watch out for "Eames/Panton era" lookalikes and Ikea fakies.

And I'm so jealous of Lenny Kravitz's house in Miami. Talk about 2001.
posted by raygun21 at 11:00 AM on October 31, 2002

Cool link condour75 - I love this stuff! Also love some of the links added to this thread, particularly those by raygun21.
I grew up in the rather dowdy city of Worcesteer in central MA, but if there's one thing we did well, it was diners. Nothing quite like a 2 am breakfast at the Boulevard on a Friday or Saturday night after the bars closed....yum! Here's a cool rundown of various diner manufacturers and a Diner Museum where you can see listings of original vintage diners for sale.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:01 PM on October 31, 2002

I had wondered where Googie Drives got its name from. Actually, I thought they were infringing on Google or something.
posted by kindall at 10:46 PM on October 31, 2002

tweebiscuit writes: I took a course on modern architecture last semester -- they didn't even MENTION this shit.

That's a great shame, and I suspect that what you experienced constitutes an inexcusable elitism...

You raise a good point George but I hope that raygun's post makes some headway in deflecting the charge of elitism -- maybe it is at least excusable. ;-)

Like any course in art history, studying modern architecture requires editing the study material for the alloted time. Late modernism usually gets the short shrift in the study of 20th century architecture -- late modernism being as close to "googie" as one will get, as illustrated in raygun's post. I suspect that is changing (or will change) as we become further removed from the earliest sources of modernism.

Much of what humans build trickles down from some great precedent or precedents -- sometimes from one period in time to another (e.g. Thomas Jefferson copied ancient examples from Greece, Rome and the Italian renaissance and was then in turn copied by others) or within an architect's own body of work or the work of contemporaries. Inspiration can also come from and feed other metiers, such as graphic design.

When that inspiration becomes commonplace then architectural historians (and architects) will refer to those buildings as vernacular architecture. But this will only become the case if a vast body of work has some common identifiers -- like googie. Vernacular architecture often runs through another course of study apart from the main stream of architectural history. (Although Venturi et al shifted this dictum which continues to be rocked today by the likes of Koolhaus.)

The term "googie" is new to me but I do recognize the style -- I just had never given it a name. (In my current mood, I would probably call it "lounge" architecture.)

Thanks for the post Mr. 75.
posted by Dick Paris at 1:57 AM on November 1, 2002

Hmm, if you dig Googie, you might go for Lapidus as well...and if you're looking for the downstream variants, check out Arquitectonica, whose Westin NY at Times Square we well and truly slated around here not too long ago.

I a minimalist. ; . )
(Tho' I will fess up to a yen for mid-century icons like the Eameses, Jabobsen, Saarinen, and so on.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:19 AM on November 1, 2002

Encounter, in the Theme Building at LAX.
posted by Guy Smiley at 3:41 PM on November 1, 2002 response to my earlier query about pronunciation...does this mean I'm not alone in wondering? Or does it mean none of you want to share your secret knowledge? (sniff.)
posted by squasha at 6:17 AM on November 2, 2002

Hard G, G.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2002

the Eamses rocked! I'll have to check out those other designers too, adamgreenfield.. thanks for the names. Bonus question: If the Eameses, Jacobsen, and Saarinen went bowling, who would be the first to get a strike?
posted by condour75 at 11:56 PM on November 2, 2002

Which Saarinen, condour?
posted by Dick Paris at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2002

Hmm, good question. My money's on Ray.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:22 PM on November 4, 2002

Thanks for the post. I hope it's not a self-link to say that I remember some Googie in Paramus on Rt. 17, but it's all gone.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:32 AM on November 5, 2002

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