The future looked bright in the 1950s and 1960s. The birth of atomic science brought promises of advanced societies powered by nuclear energy, while the beginnings of the space race made people realize that humans might soon venture to the Moon or Mars. And because a futuristic era seemed just beyond the horizon, the shift to an ultramodern architectural style was almost inevitable.
Television also reflected this optimism toward technology — it would make our daily lives easier, and allow for ever-more-ambitious achievements. In the early 1960s, The Jetsons portrayed a high-tech society with flying cars, housekeeping robots, and meals prepared with the push of a button. A few years later, Star Trek painted an idealistic future where humankind uses advanced technology to explore and understand the universe . . . as well as enjoy meals prepared with the push of a button.
Googie architecture exemplified this sanguine outlook. The style used unconventional shapes, eye-catching colors, and modern materials — including glass, chrome, and lots of plastic. It was bold, playful, and exuberant.
Because many businesses, such as restaurants, car washes, and bowling alleys, were being built in this style, Googie architecture was easily accessible to the average American. You didn’t need to hire an architect to design a modern, futuristic house for you. You could get a taste of Googie by just hopping in your car and scoping out your local diner.
“All you needed was, you know, the price of a hamburger. And you could go into any of these restaurants, and the designs of them were intended to make you feel as if you were participating in this new age,” Hess says.
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