Have you heard of Googie architecture?
You have if you ever watched The Jetsons, whose imaginary architecture borrowed heavily from real life Googie buildings just outside the animators’ studio. You might also have encountered while driving around Los Angeles, California, New Jersey (where I first discovered it in the form of the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood, among other examples), or, in the case of these images, Austin, Texas.
The style came to bear from post World War 2 futurism in the 50’s and 60’s. Americans has fresh optimism about the future and fantastic new technologies, along with money to burn.
Automobiles became common and everyone wanted to travel.
And what does the traveling soul need, but somewhere to stop, rest, and get a bite to eat?
In the east you’ll find toll roads and parkways aplenty with intentionally placed rest stops, which are wonderful all in their own right. Since moving to the Hudson Valley and exploring northern and western New York I’ve discovered some really amazing ones.
Way out west in California is the land of the freeway, where one is not on a guided tour but has the freedom to stop wherever they please. So if they can go anywhere, how do you get them to stop at your restaurant?
What if you made your building look CRAZY? Like NOTHING they’d ever seen before.
So that’s what they did. The result was wild, super futuristic architecture and signage.
Architectural Historian Alan Hess said “Googie made the future accessible to everyone… it wasn’t custom houses for wealthy people - it was for coffee shops, gas stations… the average buildings of everyday life”.
That last line got me thinking. I’m a big fan of residential architecture and really gorgeous homes, but a home like that really only exists for the person that owns it and their social circle they invite over. These other structures, though, coffee shops, gas stations, the other places of business and leisure - those are the places we all experience together that may go even further to define our lives than our own homes.
There’s something really special about so much thought and intention being put into making our communal spaces, our spaces that everyone lives in.
Sure, we don’t get as many buildings that look quite as crazy as this anymore, but there are still some marvels out there to discover, and wonderful new things being made every day.