History and the Style of the Future : Googie Architecture Is Obsolete, but Speaker at Conference Urges Saving Slice of County's Past


The unique Space Age style that gave birth to most of Orange County's architectural icons during the 1950s and 1960s is rapidly vanishing but should be preserved, a student of the outlandish style said during a local history conference Saturday.

Googie architecture, which appeared in Orange County after Disneyland opened in 1955, heralded the Space Age with its pronounced shapes, boomerang angles and bold uses of glass, steel and neon.

The idea, presenter Daniel Paul said, was to attract the attention of speeding motorists to places such as the Satellite Shopland and the Inn of Tomorrow in Anaheim.

"The reason we have Googie is because in Southern California we have a car culture," Paul said. "Googie starts on the roadside. The car is its soul mate."

The style spread across the United States but fell out of favor in the 1970s, and many Googie treasures, such as the Anaheim Bowl, have been removed or demolished in the last few years.

Paul said an architecture writer coined the term "Googie" when he drove past a now-demolished West Hollywood coffee shop called Googie and exclaimed, "That's Googie!"

"Despite how oftentimes different Googie is, how singular and unique it is on its own terms, it's an icon," Paul said. "It serves as a great reminder of a sense of place and a sense of identity. I think it should be preserved."

The panel discussion was part of a three-day conference on the history of Orange County sponsored by Chapman University and the Orange County Historical Society.

Held at the Cal State Fullerton campus, the conference was attended by 130 historians, students, writers and researchers, said Tracy Smith, an oral historian at Cal State Fullerton.

Among other topics discussed were: the development of the 19th century art colony in Laguna Beach, the history of the Santa Ana Canyon, and the role of re-created landscapes in Native American villages and farms.

Jane Newell, the curator of the Anaheim Public Library History Room, said the library is making an effort to document Googie architecture so that it will not be forgotten if it disappears.

Maureen Rischard, a member of the Orange County Pioneer Council who attended the Googie session, said opening a museum that would house Googie originals or smaller-scale models would be the best way to preserve Googie contributions to popular culture.

"We can't keep everything forever," said Rischard, 78, of Tustin. "It's sad to see it all go. But you can't preserve everything. You need the room, and it takes money. We have to look to the future. But you can preserve the memories with oral history, pictures and technology."

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