Exaggerated Modern architecture — also known as Googie architecture -- began in Southern California, then fanned out to other areas of the nation, with amazing popularity in Las Vegas and Miami. This architectural style was at its peak in the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, the term "Exaggerated Modern" is being used to describe this style of architecture. The term "Googie", which was initially used to identify this style, is traced back to restaurants designed by John Lautner in the early 1940s. In 1949, Lautner designed Googie's coffee shop (next to the famous Schwab's drug store) at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights in Los Angeles. When Professor Douglas Haskell of Yale spotted the coffee shop, he coined its style as "Googie architecture." The label stuck when Haskell wrote an influential article on the style in House and Homemagazine. The name suits the exotic and playful style that was once used on thousands of buildings — coffee shops, restaurants, motels, car washes, bowling alleys, car dealerships — throughout Southern California.
The Exaggerated Modern (or Googie) style took its cues from Streamline Moderne and commercial vernacular architecture of the 1930s and 1940s. It began as a way to make the most of strip malls and other roadside locations and to catch the eye of passing motorists. The style reflected the exuberance, enthusiasm, optimism, and faith in the future and technology prevalent in the 1950s. It borrowed heavily from popular culture and the Space Age, and is often described as a combination of the Flintstones and the Jetsons.
Common features of Exaggerated Modern architecture include:
The ultramodern Bob's Big Boy restaurants, early McDonald's restaurants, Disneyland's Tomorrowland and Monsanto House of the Future, Seattle's Space Needle, and the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood are all well-known examples of Exaggerated Modern architecture.
Because of its association with Disneyland, Anaheim became the ideal city for Exaggerated Modern architecture. Hundreds of buildings designed in this style dotted Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue, especially around the theme park, in the 1960s and 1970s; gradually, most of them have disappeared, as Anaheim has adopted stricter building design and sign standards in the area around Disneyland.
Unlike Anaheim, Fullerton never went overboard on this style, but a few commercial buildings were constructed. The only structures still standing in Fullerton with the Exaggerated Modern style are located at the southwest corner of Commonwealth and Nutwood Avenues. Originally built in 1964 as a shopping center, this building complex is now the home of Hope International University.
Exaggerated Modern architecture was out of favor by the mid-1960s. Historical and cultural events — the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, social unrest — combined to temper the optimistic attitudes of the 1950s. Many "serious" architects also criticized the style as frivolous, crass, and kitschy. It was very much architecture appropriate for the times and needs of the day. Examples of Exaggerated Modern architecture in Los Angeles and Orange County can be found on the Internet at Googie Architecture Online.
Read More about Exaggerated Modern (Googie) Architecture:
Building complex at Hope International University (1964)
2500 E. Nutwood Avenue
Building complex (1964), now the home of Hope International University
2500 E. Nutwood Avenue