06 February, 2011

Whither Googie?

Reading an interesting book at the moment that has made me reconsider my architectural tastes... I've long been a fan of Googie, architecture redolent of 40s - 60s americana, motels, coffee houses and bowling alleys. Upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Googie's distinctive style was a reaction to the automobile's speed and the culture it brought with it - forms that had to attract attention from drivers speeding past on the freeway.

Googie is not acknowledged much, architecture critics pass by quickly, perhaps noting the vibrant shapes and colours. How appropriate. Googie was too crass, too materialistic and too blue-collar, I mean really? A bowling alley? It is said to have been quickly replaced with Modernism and thence Postmodernism.

In A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain the author Owen Hatherly argues that Googie didn't go away and in fact became the prevailing style in Blairite Britain. The style can be seen in the out-of-town retail parks across the country with their totem pole signs clamouring for attention. But it transcended being the poor relation and was the go-to style for every PFI hospital, school and housing project and especially every gallery and museum that wanted a slice of that sweet 'Bilbao effect'.

Cantilevered structures, glass, swooping roofs. The building as a logo. It is all pure Googie. Which suddenly makes me question why I tend to think these new buildings are awful, when I thought I loved Googie. Perhaps it's the usual story, those things that were brash and challenging 50 years ago are now familiar and reassuring. Or maybe I have a knee-jerk negative reaction because I associate the building with the inevitable story of greed, incompetence and misinformation followed up with an enormous bill that seems to accompany every PFI project. Hmmm

2 Step to the white courtesy phone:

Blogger Roo shout your mess

If you look at some of the older service stations, the architecture on them is brilliant, once you peel away the 21st century add-ons

I have great book, written by a student, from my Welcome Break days, that has some stunning designs and pictures of the older ones.

February 06, 2011 3:55 pm

Blogger Chris shout your mess


February 06, 2011 4:42 pm


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