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Design or Tear Down?


Seems like the new big thing is tearing down the old . . . typical LA vision or lack of?

The debate over tearing down the Norm's Restaurant on La Cienega is the latest in the long list of recent Tear Down's. I am still bemoaning the loss of the Ambassador Hotel. Not so much because of RFK's assasination, although, that too . . . but because I spent my Grad Night at the Coconut Grove listening to The Righteous Brothers.

The Norm's debate is really over what we call "Googie" architecture, which, according to Wikipedia, had its start in Southern California in the 1940s, influenced by the car culture, the space age, the jet age and the atomic age. It is an architecture that has been trivialized over the years, laughed at and misunderstood, but the style changed the American landscape, even as it defined an era, and is now enjoying a major resurgence along with Mid-Century Modern, also known today as Modernism . . .

"Googie" architecture was named after a coffee shop in West Hollywood that was built by John Lautner, named . . . Googie's. The main features of this iconic style was an upswept roof (76 Union station in Beverly Hills on Burton Way and Crescent Dr.)


geometric shapes and lots of glass and steel and neon. It was very popular for motels, gas stations and coffee shops. One of the most famous icons of the time is the TWA Flight Center built by Eero Saarinen in New York City.

The City of New York designated both the interiors and the exteriors of the Eero Saarinen-designed terminal a historic landmark in 1994 and in 2005 the National Park Service listed the Trans World Flight Center on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Theme Building at LAX is another great example and there are many many more . . . John Lautner's residential arcitecture always seemed to exemplify this style and he became known for this quirky and new way of building as many of his houses resemble spaceships or some kind of wings in the upsweep of the roof. I think of John Lautner as yesterday's Frank Gehry or Zahah Hadid . . .


Norms Restaurant is another example of a time that has passed and seems insignificant now, old and dated just like Disneyland's "Tomorrowland" wih the Rocket Ship to Tomorrow. Yet the style has remained to some extent and that Rocket Ship . . . well, I think that ship has sailed.

In Santa Monica, on Wilshire there was a Googie restaurant called "Zucky"s. The coffee shop itself had many different owners overs the years and was finally sold. The Los Angeles Conservancy saved the building and the sign, although not the coffee shop, today the building houses a bank not an eatery . . . but the Zucky's sign is still there!

And I for one, am glad they saved it. Everytime I am away for a awhile, I come back to certain neighborhoods and I can't recognize them. they don't resemble any of my childhood memories and I miss them.

As Snoopy once said in his inimitable way,

"Don't they know they're parking on my memories??" That's how I feel.

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