On December 8, the Facebook page for Corky's, a diner completed in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks in 1958, announced that it will be closing its doors by the middle of the month following a lease dispute. The post lamented the treatment historic architecture receives in the city, stating that "Landlords just don’t appreciate these unique-style buildings and design.” Designed by Armet & Davis, one of the most prominent firms designing Googie architecture during the post-war period throughout Los Angeles, Corky's iconic roofline, playful neon signage, and stony facade make it an exemplary building of the popular, yet short-lived, style. Since the building first opened as Stanley Burke’s in 1958, the structure has survived the changing of hands and the decades of extensive remodeling that came with it. Corky's interior is notable for its extensive use of wood-paneling, overstuffed green booths, and speckled drop ceiling. Only a small handful of the Armet & Davis's buildings still survive that exemplify the same exuberant Googie style, including Johnie's Coffee Shop across from LACMA, and the iconic Norm's on La Cienega. The building's current owners are urging fans of the building to encourage city leaders to make Corky's a Los Angeles landmark before its next owner potentially decides to demolish it, while Alan Hess, a local architectural historian and preservationist, has personally submitted a Historic-Cultural Monument application to the City of Los Angeles. "Unlike the prevailing examples of high Modernism," Hess wrote in Googie Redux in 1986, "Googie was rarely boring. Its key features—futuristic details, expressive use of new materials, metal-frame structures that allowed seemingly weightless canopies and free-flowing spaces—elicited the fluidity of the Modern era." As of yet, there are no demolition permits have been filed with the city, potentially indicating that the exuberant structure could be here to stay, regardless of its tentative landmark status.
Posts tagged with "Googie":
It's an all-too familiar story: a beloved local institution bites the dust as a developer swoops in to build apartments. But one modest Seattle restaurant has found a number of advocates that are fighting for it to gain lazndmark status. The restaurant is Spud, a fish-and-chips spot with roots that date back to the 1935, and it's the restaurant's Green Lake location that's at the center of campaign (several other Spud restaurants exist, though they are run by different ownership). After a developer announced plans to raze the six-decade-old structure in order to build a four-story apartment building, representatives from Historic Seattle and Docomomo WEWA are speaking out in support of having the building designated a city landmark, with a Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board hearing scheduled for later this month. The current plan has Spuds reopening on the first floor the new building, but preservationists argue that demolishing the current structure would mean losing one of the finest examples of the modernist style in all of the Northwest, Seattle's Daily Journal of Commerce reports. Dating back to the 1950s, the 1,637-square-foot fish shack was designed by Edward L. Cushman in the playful Googie style of midcentury modernism. The popular postwar style was designed to attract the attention of drivers to roadside fast-food restaurants, gas stations, and motels, and, like many of the type, Spud features a distinctive butterfly roof and neon sign. So far, the developer of the proposed apartment building, Seattle's Blueprint Capital, is going along with the landmark process, even requesting the landmark hearing as a proactive measure. Meanwhile, local preservationists, citing the fact that the building has been occupied with a working Spud location ever since it was built, have proposed looking at alternative designs, such as a scheme that would incorporate the new structure into the existing site.
After nearly 15 years sitting empty, a Googie icon of the upper Midwest is reopening—and there's no shortage of purple vinyl and rotating bars. The Gobbler Supper Club, now the Gobbler Theater, sits on a hill overlooking Interstate 94, 45 miles west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Designed by the late southern Wisconsin architect Helmut Ajango, the Gobbler was completed in 1969. Originally made up of a supper club and motel, and built for a local turkey farmer, the domed restaurant and 49 room motel were lavishly decorated in fantastic colors and materials. Now completely refinished, the flying saucer-like structure is getting a second chance as a music venue. As a typology, supper clubs themselves are fairly unique to the upper Midwest. Characterized by low lit dining rooms, novel bars, and steak dinners hearty enough for hard working farmers out for a special dinner. They're usually situated in rural areas along state highways. As major social spaces, supper clubs once drew patrons from vast areas of their surrounding countryside. The Gobbler was no exception. Its pink and purple vinyl and shag carpet interior featured a rotating bar and an elevated dance floor known as the “Roost.” The motel rooms each included large heart shaped waterbeds, and round sunken bathtubs, all in bright colors with shag carpet covering the floors and walls. By 1992 the mystique of the supper club had mostly faded and the Gobbler closed permanently. The motel followed suit in 2001, and shortly after was dramatically demolished when it was used for a fire fighter training fire. With over $2 million invested in remodeling, local businessman Daniel Manesis has restored much of the character that made the Gobbler what it once was. While maintaining much of the purple tufted vinyl furniture, and saving the rotating bar, Manesis has also added state of the art sound and light systems, and stadium seating in the former dining area. Able to seat over 400 people, the venue will still have no seat farther than 55 feet from the new stage. Local residents in the neighboring town of Johnson Creek—population 3,000—are pleased with the development after years of short-lived attempts by other investors to reimagine the building. From proposed casinos and strip clubs (to be named the Gobbler-a-go-go), to failed Mexican restaurants, many feared the building would eventually be razed. Regular performances are expected to begin in late January 2016, but as a preview to the community Manesis has invited the local high school band and choir to christen the new stage with their holiday concert. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AajNoE2AqnY
Googie—the futuristic style born in mid-century Los Angeles coffee houses (like the recently threatened Norms), gas stations, and motels—has found a revival in Cuningham Group's renovation of the “Southwest Bowl” in South LA’s West Athens district. The bowling alley, which was closed in 2008, was originally built in 1958. The 25,500 square foot lot was purchased by the Asomugha Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to educational advancement programs. The organization has transformed the alley into their new headquarters and community center, known as The Foundation Center. The architects maintained most of the exterior, including zigzag meandering walls and a large projecting canopy, and added elements like a new roof, skylights, upgraded finishes, and several new floors and walls. The mostly new interiors are organized with a broad axial concourse and a series of exciting floor level shifts.
Long-time Mar Vista Lanes diner, Pepy’s Galley, an iconic, authentically Googie-style restaurant, closed its doors forever on Monday. By most accounts, the interior will be a total loss, as the building’s new owner, BowlmorAMF, intends to convert Pepy’s into a catering space for the adjacent bowling alley. The Mar Vista Lanes complex was designed by famed architects Armet & Davis, a seminal Los Angeles firm also known for Pann’s and the original Norm’s restaurant. For longtime business owner, Joseph "Pepy" Gonzalez, the decision marks the end of a 45-year association with the restaurant, first as an employee and then as proprietor. Pepy's is on a month-to-month lease from the bowling alley, so he’s only had 30 days to wrap up his operations. “This neighborhood is a family-oriented place,” said Pepy. “That’s how I run my restaurant—the employees are my kids, and you customers are my family.” The family nature of the restaurant is reflected in the multiple uses of the bowling alley complex, which also includes an arcade area and a bar with a separate entrance. Located along Venice Boulevard, just east of Centinela, the bowling alley retains many of its authentic architectural details, including a cast-concrete block façade that angles back from the property line to open up views and create visual interest. Mar Vista Lanes opened in 1961 with a Tiki-themed bar; you can still find a single carved wood Tiki column outside the entrance to Pepy’s. It’s unclear whether the new owners will retain these classic architectural elements. In the meantime, a Facebook group has been established, seeking to prevent the closure, although the new owners have released a statement suggesting it was too late. Jon Yoder, associate professor of architecture at Ohio’s Kent State University and an authority on the visuality of Los Angeles architecture, as well as a longtime Pepy’s customer, lamented the loss of yet another Googie-style temple to the greasy spoon. Taking time out from eating a custom, off-the-menu breakfast burrito recently at Pepy’s, Yoder reflected on the nuanced visual complexity of the Googie style, something he views as lost in the chain restaurant culture that dominates most American cities. “The spatial configuration forces mixing of different sizes of parties and types of people,” Yoder said, noting tightly controlled nautical themed space with counter seating, fixed booths, and combinable booths with flip-up table wings. “There’s some place for everyone here.” This visual complexity was not accidental. In 1980, the late historian Esther McCoy wrote in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner of the influence of the style, which emerged following the original Googie’s diner designed by John Lautner in 1949 and built next to the famous Schwab’s pharmacy. That diner, which has been replaced by a bland multi-story, mixed-use shopping center at Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Canyon, marked a shift, in McCoy’s view, on how restaurant design could locate the viewer in space. “For the first time the tables and booths in a small restaurant were oriented to the outside rather than the cash register…” wrote McCoy. “Through large windows at the front and side was a view of the hills in the distance, the stream of traffic in the middle ground, and in the foreground you could see who was going in or out of Schwab’s.” From the vantage point of a booth at Pepy’s, McCoy could have been describing either diner. Googie diners are becoming rare specimens in Los Angeles, even though the style ranks as an icon of the city’s taste culture. But like much of the city’s architectural production, historically weighted toward commercial returns and public trends, eventually mainstream fascination wanes and developers seek fresher aspirational expressions of consumer fantasy. That said, no one can argue with the classic that is Pepy’s off-the-menu breakfast burrito.