Long before I knew anything about modern architecture or what it was called, I can remember noticing strange, yet wondrously designed buildings around my town. These buildings, whether hotels, bowling alleys, coffee shops, dry cleaners, gas stations, etcetera, looked as if they belonged in a science fiction movie. The building style that I’m referring to goes by various titles, but the most common is Googie.
Googie architecture seemed to capture the excitement of the burgeoning space race of the late fifties and early sixties, but it also allowed us to dream of a better and easier future. The common design motif was a hodgepodge of exaggerated and geometrically odd angles, boomerang, atomic and amoeba shapes, starburst ornamentation, and eye-catching neon signs. Other styles during this same period are closely related such as, Tiki or Polynesian. Occasionally, these styles fused into cool styles that safely transplanted us to another place.
As the Space program lost excitement, so did the public fascination with Googie. From the mid-seventies up to recently, Googie has been criticized by some as gauche or ridiculous. Unfortunately, many of these unique structures have long since lived their usefulness, and many are in decrepit condition (as seen in the photo). Googie buildings are frequently bought by greedy developers who in turn raze them in order to construct generic architecture. Nonetheless, Googie continues to be an important part of our historical and cultural landscape. Googie was in effect, very modern for the time.
If you are interesting in learning more about Googie, then please visit Space Age City for a more detailed explanation. Also, please look into the multitude of national, local and community preservation groups such as Atomic Age Alliance and Recent Past Preservation Network.