Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Googie Architecture is Flycatching



Mid-Century Modern Goes Googie
By Matt Bamberg


Googie, abstract and geometric, ignoring gravity and consisting of a combination of then-space age materials—sheets of glass, steel beams, asbestos (oh no), plywood and plastic— has caught the eye of Dale Wissman, Executive Director for Building Horizons, a non-profit training program that teaches local high school students entry-level construction and construction-related skills during the actual building of affordable homes. “Googie is space-age, roadside-ultra-optimistic, mid-century modern architecture. Think The Jetsons, Tommorrowland, The Astro Car Wash, The Seattle Space Needle, and any motel that has the total futurama motif,” he explained.

Googie has been traced back to Coffee Dan's restaurants designed by John Lautner in the early forties. There was a Googie’s coffee shop at Sunset and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles. Since then Googie has taken some twists and turns.

“It was wildly popular in Southern California for certain high entertainment/concept businesses in the late fifties and early 60's and dovetailed with the Cadillac's tailfins of the same era. There were structures riffing on the new shapes and designs coming from NASA,” Wissman said.

Seeking out new and innovative designs for his projects, Wissman’s found that Googie contains some of the mid-century’s most alluring and futuristic video game-like designs. Yet, Googie structures with their extreme, metaphorical qualities and humor are hard to categorize.

While Palm Springs is certainly not the Googie center of the world, as other SoCal locales, there are notable elements of this flamboyant architecture in the Coachella Valley, a place that has become a mid-century Disneyland.

The Tramway Gas Station (soon to be the new Palm Springs Visitor's Center.) is probably the best-known Googie landmark. “Frey did his Googie-style turn with such sophistication, that it may be hard to see the Tramway Gas Station as projecting the optimism and future (of that style),” Palm Springs Preservation Foundation member Wissman explained. “You have to notice the architectural drama in the triangular roof jutting out to shade the original gas pumps.”

Referring to Googie as “Roadside flypaper”, Wissman wants his students to know that the architecture served a purpose—to get the highway traveler off the road and inside a business. Frey’s style did just that, got people to stop at the gas station to buy gas for new fashionable vehicles of chrome and steel. “And it does something else,” he added. “Frey's Googie-style building was architecture built to succeed in yesterday's future: the current day.”

The roof is the first eyebrow lifting experience on which Googie brings to the casual roadside observer from his car window upon entering Palm Springs. The top of which would probably be a skateboarder’s paradise—slopes that swoop—had they been built on the ground.

Large plate glass windows are the next telling sign, letting the car culture know that there’s something that they want and need, whether they have to have it or not. In this aspect, up and down Palm Canyon, Highway 111, Date Palm and other established thoroughfares in the desert the tale-tall signs of Googie are lurking.

Meant to attract the automobile, a Googie building became a destination in itself. It served as a Disneyesque Tomorrowland, built with the sole purpose of creating architecture and outdoor space that itself was the attraction. Googie-style buildings serviced the new culture of mobility: car washes, gas stations, roadside cafes, convenience stores and drive-in restaurants.

It spread from here all over the United States and Canada, a celebration of competition for the highway traveler, paralleling the US-Soviet space race, the launch of the USA’s Mercury missions vs. the launch of the Sputnik, the Soviet-era space craft.

Googie fever’s rapid rise came among space success from John Glenn orbiting the earth to the men on the moon. Amusement parks and tourist attractions followed in celebration, which gave way to spinning restaurants, and space-age banks and airports. “The L.A.X. tower is SUPER GOOGIE,” Wissman said.

“Now more than ever, nostalgia for a simpler, more optimistic time goes a long way towards explaining the resurgence in interest surrounding Googie design,” stated Wissman.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Anti-Neon "Keep America Beautiful" Campaign

Lady Bird Johnson began an anti-neon campaign on America's highways.
The beginning of the end of neon arrived in the 1960s when the first lady at the time, Lady Bird (yes, that's right) Johnson decided that highways should be beautiful and neon was not part of the plan."Ugliness is so grim," the first lady once boasted. "A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions."

Up until the passage of 1965's Highway Beautification Act neon was highway flypaper, attracting motorists with flashy classic steel-and-neon to stop and sleep or eat. After that, smaller back-lit plastic signs that were a better blend with the highway's natural foliage marked the roadside attractions. Neon-be-gone became persuasive from highway to highway all across the country.

Keep America Beautiful resurrected Lady Bird do-gooder wife and mother to a symbol of national pride, looking after America, a figure who distinguished neon's cutting-edge architecture.

Friday, January 09, 2015

FRESH UP WITH 7up

Fresh up with 7up
Oh, wait, there's another jingle that might strike your fancy.

Let's all go out to the lobby,
Let's all go out to the lobby,
And drink some 7up.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Signs All Around Us

When looking out the window of a moving car or when walking down a busy street, what do you typically see? Generally you'll see homes, businesses or other similar buildings. But how do you know what they are? It's because of the sign letters that you may be able to see on the outside or above on a billboard. I'm sure you're saying, "no, my home doesn't have any signs on it". But what about your address? The numbers on the outside of your house that make it stand out from all the other houses.

There are other signs to show you the time or even the weather forecast. The other types of signs you see could be huge advertisements. These can be large over the top computerized signs, or even just handmade paper displays advertising a yard sale. Is the world becoming so over advertized that when you can look up in the sky and see not a bird, but a plane trailing an advertising banner, a blimp with printed advertising, or even skywriting? Is this the only way we know how to express ourselves and how to get our point across?

We also need sign letters. when we are traveling. How do you know which road to take if you don't know which road you are on, which exit is the nearest rest room, or a road leading to your destination? These are very important things, especially when traveling long distances. Besides directing traffic on the outside of buildings, signs can also do the same on the inside of buildings. If you're in a hospital or airport, you can almost always look up and see a sign pointing you in a direction with a little map of where else you can go from there.

Sign letters can be very helpful even to those who can not see. That may not make any sense, but the use of Braille as signage is extremely important to people in this day and age. On that note, if you're watching a T.V. show and see the words being written out at the bottom of the screen that some of us take for granted. Other ways that we use signage: a restaurant can display the dish of the day with changeable letter signs, or even with a computerized digital version. Those are becoming increasingly popular with many businesses. What other display do you need to make a choice for your meal before you even enter the restaurant?

Without a scoreboard at sporting events you may have a hard time keeping track of the score. In those sorts of stadiums you also have arrows, like in an airport, that will direct you to your correct departure gate. Traffic control signs can also help to block off traffic from an accident and save others from suffering the same fate. Without signage or display sign letters, it could become increasingly difficult to get through certain aspects of the day as you travel around.