Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Googie Style

One of my passions is for the particular strain of modern architecture that is called "Googie" or Coffee Shop modern. It takes it's name from a chain of Coffee Shops named Googie's; several of which were designed by noted Frank Lloyd Wright Apprentice John Lautner. Lautner designed several other Coffee Shops as well and is commonly refered to as the father of this particular movement. Now he didnt set out to do this and did not care for the label. Lautner did not see himself as designing Coffee Shop architecture, he was doing REAL ARCHITECTURE and it happened to have the function of a Coffee Shop. Lautner saw Architecture as an individual response to an individual problem, his work is clearly of the "Organic" tradition of his mentor. Lautner was accused of arbitrary unsupported effects in his work, but he rejected the criticism as ignorant and had a justification for whatever he did, this was usually only communicated fully through the experience of one of his buildings. In fact pictures often do not do Lautner buildings justice, I had the honor of living in a Lautner residence and it truly is meant to be experienced. Lautner is about space, and how Architecture interacts with light, with the site, with the client, with the program. His work is never arbitrary nor is it a style with consistent repeatable motiffs, his language is not so much one of planes and structure like Neutra or most Mid-Century Designs but a language of form, solids, voids, light , and shadow. A unifying element of all of his work is the bold roof. Even his commercial projects usually are about a bold roof form. This is not unlike the legion of Coffee Shops by other Architects as well.

Why the emphasis on the roof? The fundamental principle of any architecture is shelter and a bold roof communicates this clearer than any other Architectural gesture. This is a recurring theme of Coffee Shop Modern. Think back to any vintage Denny's and the image is of that inverse check mark floating above walls of glass. At once you read the primal image of shelter, the cave and yet you know by the walls of glass it is no mere cave. Of course between the walls of glass are slender steel structural members, the real structure, but the image is communicated first, shelter, modern shelter. The Coffee Shop was refuge from the road, and yet with it's walls of glass the parking lot was practically wallpaper, It is an Architecture that is primarily associated with commercial uses but the underlying principles are not specific to those uses. There are Architects, like Lautner, who used the same ideas to inform their residential designs. That is the tradition I most like to work in. At BBarH Ranch there have been some opportunities to do so, here on this Desert Plain shelter is the first concern and so I designed a few projects around this idea.

This image is a view of a 3 bedroom 3 bath residence of 2200 square feet. At the heart of the plan is the Kitchen and Great Room, center of the family ala Wright. The imediate image read is the large soaring roof truss. It rises from a 8' plate at the bedrooms to 10' at the Master bedroom and kitchen before rising at another angle to 12' feet. The Soaring roof is the line of aspiration, it also provides at it's lowest point a sense of shelter and intimacy for the bedrooms. At the space formed by the intersection of the great room wing and the bedroom wing is a sheltered outdoor terrace, here both the greatroom and the master bedroom open onto an area the effectively doubles the living space. The Roof seems poised for flight being held in place by a slender steel V-Strut column and has two large openings through which pass mature Palm Trees blurring the distinction between the indoors and outdoors. Where feasable there are large expanses of floor to ceiling glass, and stone walls accent the stucco walls. The imagery is primal via the stone and heavy roof and yet sleek and modern through the steel strut and large expanses of glass. All of these being qualities compatible with the desert surroundings.