9 Far Out Examples of Space Age Architecture
“Alexa, play ‘Future Nostalgia’ by Dua Lipa.”
In 1949, a coffee shop by the name of Googie’s presided over the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard in Los Angeles. Designed by architect John Lautner, the building featured unique elements, such as a roof that angled upward. The coffee shop would become so emblematic of a certain style of mid-century architecture known for its bold and futurist aesthetic that the whole movement would be named after the shop. Although Googie’s was demolished in the late ’80s to make way for a shopping center, there are still examples of this uniquely Space Age style scattered throughout the U.S.
Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
Located in the heart of Los Angeles International Airport, the Theme Building is perhaps one of the most famous surviving examples of Googie architecture. The building was originally conceived as a point where all of the terminals and parking structures would converge. Though the final version of the building doesn’t serve this function, its circular design (surrounded and supported by arching legs) gives it the feeling of being at the center of the airport.
The Space Needle
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
This now-iconic emblem of the Seattle skyline was initially constructed as the centerpiece of the 1962 World’s Fair. The earliest designs for the structure envisioned it as resembling a balloon that had been tethered to the ground but was later changed to resemble a flying saucer. At the time of its completion, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
TWA Terminal/TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport
WHERE: New York City
Trans World Airlines’ terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport was completed in 1962. The exterior is made up of two sweeping, wing-like shells. Though TWA was acquired by American Airlines (its final flights were nearly 20 years ago), those with an interest in the terminal and aviation history can indulge their curiosity at the TWA Hotel where the terminal now serves as the hotel’s lobby.
WHERE: West Covina, California
Covina Bowl, designed by architectural firm Powers, Daly, and DeRosa, opened its doors (and its lanes) in 1956. The exterior features a dramatic A-frame over the entrance and towering, classic Googie signage. While you can no longer show up for a game at one of its 50 lanes or enjoy a drink in the cocktail lounge, the building hasn’t gone the way of many of its other mid-century bowling alley brethren. In 2019, plans were in place to convert the property into townhomes while hopefully preserving its signature, historical elements.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada
This 25-foot sign has been greeting motorists to the Vegas strip since 1959. The sign was designed by Betty Willis, who took inspiration from the shape of the Goodyear logo (fitting, as part of the function of much of Googie architecture was to quickly capture the attention of passing drivers). She also, famously, didn’t copyright her design, considering it a gift to the city.
WHERE: Wildwood, New Jersey
The Googie style was also present in the design of many of the structures that were built in the resort town of Wildwood, New Jersey during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The style, dubbed locally as “doo-wop,” can be experienced with a visit to the Caribbean Motel, which originally opened in 1957.
WHERE: Niagara Falls, Ontario
Two years after the opening of the Space Needle, construction on a similarly towering example of Googie architecture commenced on the other side of the continent. Visitors who reach the three-story observation area are treated to views of the American and Horseshoe Falls (two of the falls that make up Niagara Falls).