Googie is the architectural equivalent of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity—you may not know how to define it, but you know it when you see it. The Norms on La Cienega? That’s a Googie. The Union 76 station in Beverly Hills? Googie. That spaceship-looking thing outside of LAX? Googie.
Googie architecture got its name from architect John Lautner’s 1949 design of Googies, a coffee shop formerly located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood. Googies was demolished in 1989, but the style it inspired lives on.
Bold and eye-catching, Googies were meant to attract the eyes of people driving by in cars with their upswept roofs, atomic imagery, and tons o’ neon, glass, and steel. Douglas Haskell, the editor of House and Home Magazine, applied the name to the style in 1952 after driving by Lautner’s coffee shop. He, along with the architectural old guard, disliked the aesthetic, which they found gauche.
Many of Southern California’s classic Googies have been demolished, presumably because the businesses they housed (drive-ins, coffee shops, banks, and car washes) catered to the working classes, who, according to developers, don’t deserve nice things. These, however, remain—for now, anyhow. —Megan KoesterRead More