Incredible Googie Architecture Across America

See iconic examples of this midcentury design style before they vanish.

Photo By: Photo by Michael Lundgren.  Commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program.

Photo By: Photo by Larry Mishler, Commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program

Photo By: Photo by Larry Mishler, Commissioned by the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program

Photo By: Space Needle, Courtesy of Chad Copeland

Photo By: Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority

Photo By: Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority

Photo By: Visit Burbank

Photo By: Visit Burbank, photo by John Ellis, www.johnellisphoto.com

Photo By: Anaheim Library and Visit Anaheim

Photo By: Anaheim Library and Visit Anaheim

Photo By: Los Angeles Tourism

Photo By: Los Angeles World Airports

300 Bowl - Phoenix, Arizona

It all started when architect John Lautner unveiled his design for Googies’ Coffee Shop in Los Angeles in 1949. The bold mixture of neon, glass, exposed steel beams and sharp angles introduced a new type of Atomic Age, futuristic architecture, often using starbursts and flying saucer motifs, that became known as Googie architecture (It is also known as Populuxe and Doo Wop design). Many cities across America embraced the style such as Phoenix, Arizona, which still has several existing examples today like the 300 Bowl (built in 1960 and now called AMF Christown Lanes). With its upswept rooftop extinctions which look like launching pads, that bowling alley venue is a classic Googie structure.

Paris Laundry & Dry Cleaning - Phoenix, Arizona

Another popular Googie landmark in Phoenix is Paris Laundry & Dry Cleaning, which originally opened in 1957 and closed in 2016. Instead of falling victim to the wrecking ball, the original structure with its tilting columns and slanted design was saved by local entrepreneurs who preserved the exterior and renovated the interior, transforming it into Modern Manor, a high end, vintage and midcentury modern home furnishings store.

Rainbow Car Wash - Phoenix, Arizona

Looking like a combination of modern Native American design and a glitzy car hop-themed restaurant, the Rainbow Car Wash (now called the Lindstrom Family Car Wash) first opened in 1965 and is distinguished by its bold, blue A-frame embellishments that look like abstract teepees. It is one of a handful of vintage midcentury designed car washes still in operation in Phoenix.

Space Needle - Seattle, Washington

One of the most famous surviving examples of Googie architecture is the Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair whose theme was "The Age of Space." The saucer shaped tower top offers visitors spectacular 360-degree views of the city as well as distant points such as Mount Rainier and Puget Sound.

Caribbean Motel - Wildwood, New Jersey

Architects on the East Coast freely adapted Googie architectural styles for their own purposes. Such is the case in the beachfront town of Wildwood, New Jersey, where the distinctive midcentury design is known as Doo Wop, but also incorporates exotic themes, exaggerated signage and angular elements. Wildwood's famous Caribbean Motel was built in 1957, and the still popular resort attraction is distinguished by its oversized neon sign, cantilevered structure and curving "Jetson Ramp" that winds from ground level up to the second floor lounge and sundeck.

Gondolier Motel - Wildwood, New Jersey

Since it first opened in 1964, The Gondolier Motel remains an iconic sight in this resort community, thanks to its eye-catching sign (pictured), vivid color palette and oversized wall mural invoking the the allure of Venice, Italy.

Safari Inn - Burbank, California

California is still one state where you can find numerous examples of the famous Googie style, especially in Los Angeles and nearby towns like Burbank and Anaheim. The Safari Inn, sporting a neon oasis ambiance, is one of Burbank’s most iconic sights and has been delighting guests since 1955. The retro look is also popular with location scouts for motion pictures (True Romance, Apollo 13) and TV series (Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives).

Bob's Big Boy - Burbank, California

Burbank is also where you will find that irresistible beacon of kitsch and midcentury marketing eye candy as represented by Bob's Big Boy. Built in 1949 by local residents Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert, this is the oldest surviving Bob’s Big Boy in the nationwide chain and was designed by Wayne McAllister. With its large, angular sign and playful mascot statuette, it is a signature example of Googie architecture and Roadside Americana.

Anaheim Convention Center - Anaheim, California

With its flying saucer-like shape and imposing triangular entrance sign, the Anaheim Convention Center, which first opened in 1967, fits in perfectly with the visual aesthetics of its neighborhood which includes Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland.

Linbrook Bowl - Anaheim, California

To truly appreciate some types of Googie design, you need to see them at night like this alluring neon signage for the Linbrook Bowl in Anaheim. The venue first opened in 1958 and has preserved its vintage feel through the years including the slanted entrance to the bowling alley with its fake rock walls.

Norms - Los Angeles, California

Although there are several Norms in Los Angeles, the most famous is the oldest one on La Cienega, which first opened its doors in 1957 and was designed by Santa Monica architect Eldon Davis. The popular coffee house/restaurant with its sleek diamond roof, five-part sign and an interior like an automobile showroom with booths resembling bucket seats is a must-visit for any Googie architecture fan.

LAX Encounter - Los Angeles, California

Known as the Theme Building, this white, UFO-like structure which is situated across from the main terminal entrance at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) was completed in 1961 and operated as a restaurant offering international cuisine. It received landmark status in 1993 and got a $4 million renovation with interior and electric lighting designed by Walt Disney Imagineering and reopened as Encounter restaurant in 1997. Unfortunately, Encounter closed in December 2013 but it is now home to the Bob Hope USO organization.

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