If you live in or have visited Las Vegas or Southern California, you’ve most likely seen examples of Googie architecture, and noticed its “space-age” appearance. A good current example in Las Vegas is the La Concha lobby of the Neon Museum, located on Las Vegas Boulevard just north of Downtown Las Vegas. The lobby of the famous “La Concha Motel” was donated to the Neon Museum when the motel was demolished in the early 2000’s. This structure is a great example of the 1950’s architectural style known as “Googie,” which is defined by features such as:
- Upswept roofs and cantilevered structures
- Curvaceous, geometric shapes
- Large domes, which may resemble flying saucers
- Bold use of glass, steel and neon, including large plate-glass walls and exposed steel beams
- Illuminated plastic paneling
- Use of rock and fake rock walls
- Lush landscaping and indoor gardens
- Starbursts and bright colors
- Sharp and bold angles
“Space age” designs symbolic of motion, such as boomerangs, rocket ships, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and tailfins on buildings
Free-form designs such as “soft” parallelograms and an artist’s palette motif
The name “Googie” for this style of architecture stems from the West Hollywood coffee shop “Googies,” which was designed by architect John Lautner in 1949. Lautner is one of several architects that are credited as the originators of the style that would become known as “Googie,” and designed many buildings utilizing elements of the Googie style. Other prolific Googie architects include Wayne McAllister, Douglas Honnold, and the team of Louis Armet and Eldon Davis.
The Googie style is influenced heavily by the fascination of 1950’s America with the first space missions, the development of nuclear power, and the reality of the first generation to flood the nation’s roads with automobiles. Architects hoping to attract this newly-mobile and suburban population to restaurants, stores and other commercial establishments lining the country’s highways and byways capitalized on this fascination by utilizing architectural elements that celebrated space-flight and futuristic motifs.
Other places where you may notice Googie influences include the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign and throughout Downtown Las Vegas, with numerous motels and hotels utilizing starbursts, bold neon and artist’s palette motifs in their facades and signage.