Googie, California’s signature historic architectural style

Posted in: Architecture & Interiors, Cultural Resources

Googie architectural styleThe Googie architectural style was born in a time of technological innovation and change. Architects were influenced by the Atomic age, space travel and the growing post-World War II car craze.

The term was coined in 1949 by John Lautner who designed the West Hollywood coffee shop “Googies.”  Features of the style include:

  • Upswept rooflines and walls with sharp angles
  • Roofs with wide overhang and cantilevers
  • Geometric, starburst, atomic, space-ship or boom-a-rang shapes
  • Angled glass
  • Bright colors and lights
  • Use of steel and illuminated plastic panels

Compared to the streamlined modern styles of the 1930s, such as Moderne or International, the Googie style was exuberant. Examples of the emerging Googie style include Gunther’s Ice Cream Shop in Sacramento. This business was recently documented as part of the Mid-Century Modern in the City of Sacramento Historic Context Statement and Survey. Gunther’s folded roofline, tilted plate-glass storefront and animated neon sign illustrate the transition towards the free-form Googie style.

Googie was not “high-style architecture” created for rich clients. Rather it embraced the “every-day” – coffee shops, diners, bowling alleys and other modest commercial ventures. It was meant to catch the eye of passing motorists. The style flourished in the car-culture 1950s and 60s, as was seen in countless motels, drive-ins and gas stations of the period. The Googie craze was short-lived, and the style had fallen out of favor by the 1960s.

Interested in learning more?  Several fun online interactive Googie tours are available, such as those by the L.A. Conservancy and the LA Times.

Chad Moffett

About the Author

Chad Moffett enjoys different types of historic preservation projects and helping our clients. “Every place has a unique and interesting history. Discovering and understanding these stories and how history affected the built environment is an exciting challenge,” he says. Chad specializes in developing balanced solutions that meet client needs while respecting historic resources for future generations.

Read more posts by Chad Moffett

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