High-tech architecture and 4 other building styles you’ve never heard of
According The Jetsons, the world should be full of Googie architecture by now. “Googie architecture brought the excitement and innovation of modern architecture into the everyday lives of Americans in the mid-twentieth century,” says Alan Hess, author of Googie Redux: state-of-the-art road architecture and Googie Modern: Architectural Drawings by Armet Davis Newlove. “While modern architecture was mostly used for lavish custom homes or skyscrapers…Googie was used for everyday buildings that anyone could use: cafes, gas stations, car washes, car dealerships, laundromats and drive-ins.” Popular from 1945 to 1970 and inspired by cars, jets and the space age, the style was modern and futuristic in its heyday. used Googie as the basis for the series’ architecture.
Common elements of the style include stars and upward sloping roofs. “You can recognize Googie building design by the eye-catching roofline, often expressing a modern engineering principle: cantilevers, hyperbolic paraboloids, wide trusses or catenary curves,” Hess explains. “The Googie buildings also had large floor-to-ceiling windows.”
Unfortunately, many of Googie’s significant buildings have been demolished, as they were never considered serious by architectural critics, which is potentially why the style remains somewhat forgotten. Yet, argues Hess, this is a mistake. “Googie followed the fundamental rule of modern architecture: form follows function,” he says. “Its eye-catching shapes and state-of-the-art interiors were sized to respond to the fact that they were intended to be seen by motorists from automobiles traveling at 30 or 40 mph.” Plus, Googies Coffee Shop, the tiny 1949 cafe on the Sunset Strip from which the style takes its name, was designed by a prominent student of Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner. “The direct connection to Wright underscores that Googie is a serious example of modern architecture.”
While the style originated in California, it has spread across the country, reaching New Jersey. Many excellent examples of the retro-futuristic aesthetic can be seen in the historic Wildwoods Shore Resort district in New Jersey and Southern California. However, arguably Googie’s best-known example isn’t a building at all, but rather the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign in Nevada.