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No, Not Google, It Is Googie Architecture

You’ve seen this futuristic, nostalgic type of architecture which was originally conceived in the 1930’s and referred to as Streamline Moderne. Streamline Moderne was a type of international art deco which got its inspiration from aerodynamic as well as nautical influences. 

Once upon a time, this type of architecture graced our coffee shops, carwashes, and gas stations. It emphasized the promise of an exciting future and a taste of things to come. Unfortunately, this too came to an end as many buildings that were designed in this style have been demolished, and as an architectural style haven’t been taken seriously. Or, is that about to change?

This type of architecture went on to become very popular from the mid-late 1940s through the mid-1960s. Since our conception of the future wasn’t as advanced as actually going into the future, many of the influences were the cars, jets, and the existing science fiction of post-war America. Many who are familiar with the cartoon show “The Jetsons” have already seen a classic examples of Googie architecture. 

The term Googie was taken from a coffee shop by the same name, designed by architect John Lautner in 1949, located on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. 

Googie architecture style became part of America’s pop culture. It was exciting because it was what Americans saw as living in the future now. Alan Hess, an architect who has written extensively on mid-century architecture, has made reference that in many ways Googie architecture delivered the grand promises of modern architecture. He said, “They were populist, employed new materials, and captured their purpose, place, and culture as vividly as any great architectural style.” He is an advocate for twentieth-century architectural preservation.

Hess wrote defending the idea of a McDonald’s in Downey being a historic landmark:

“How? It’s a design that’s inseparable from its time, place and people. That’s what really good architecture is.” As a true advocate, Alan Hess has both foresight and hindsight. 

Check out some Googie architecture.

Credit: Blog images Architectural Digest


Palm Springs Mid Century Modern Architecture

Palm Springs Architecture Was A Classic From the Beginning

Palm Springs has the most extensive collection of modernist architecture in our free world. During its heyday, which was during the 1950s and 60s, the very elite and wealthy, which included celebrities, would have villas built in this up-and-coming paradise. So Palm Springs became a haven for the likes of masters such as John Lautner, Richard Neutra and Albert Frey, who have built their best architectural works in this area. 

‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

— Pablo Picasso

Features such as overhanging roof planes and shaded verandas are central to this style of architecture, as they evoke a time of an era gone by.

The Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra, circa 1946, is considered the perfect example of desert modernism. The Kaufmann House was designed for Edgar J. Kaufmann by Neutra. The interior includes five bedrooms and five bathrooms, and is in the shape of a cross with living quarters in the center. The four exterior axes create a series of outdoor areas around the property, which includes a large pool.

Of course, Palm Springs wouldn’t be Palm Springs without the mention of old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra. He commissioned E. Stewart Williams to design and build Twin Palms in 1947, which was Williams’ first project. This fabulous villa measures 4,500 square feet, has four bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The inside of the property is long and has flat, slightly sloped roofs.

Another example of modernist architecture in Palm Springs includes the Rey House II by Albert Frey. Completed in 1964, it has a simple steel structure on a concrete podium, and is topped with corrugated aluminium. It also comes complete with a sliding glass door for outside entry, and shade is provided by the overhanging roof.

These are just a few modernist villas worth mentioning, but there are more to see. They represent now only a style of an era gone by evidence that once upon a time, houses were built on a poetic notion.


r lee miller architect

Privacy on a High Level in Homes Built by R. Lee Miller

Hidden in plain sight along a hillside in Palm Springs are rock dwellings otherwise known as Araby Rock Houses, created and built by organic architect R. Lee Miller. Miller liked to build in very difficult places, such as on the side of a mountain. His unique and well-designed structures were remarkable.

Miller built his unique homes in certain secret locations, such as the private community of the Andreas Canyon Club, founded in 1923. These are the “Where’s Waldo” of houses because they are camouflaged by their own surroundings. Miller went on to purchase 330 acres, just above Ramon Road with the intention of building another hillside community there; unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition.  

We know very little about R. Lee Miller. It seems that his architectural creations were a true representation of himself; he hid in plain sight.

Here is what we do know. Robert Lee Miller was born in Hill, Texas in the year 1887. He went on to serve his country in World War I. After he served his country, he trained as a civil engineer; after moving to Palm Springs, Miller took up carpentry and built many homes in the Palm Springs area, including a home for the president of US Steel. Miller also built an adobe and rock home next to the present day Moorten Botanical Garden for actor Reginald Owen. 

The irony is that despite Miller’s prolific work in building homes, he had not had any formal training in architecture. It’s as though he came out of nowhere, created and then just disappeared in plain sight, very much like the houses he built. You can learn more interesting information on early Palm Springs architects by visiting the city of Palm Springs website

From the Factory Floor

Work in progress

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

Hugh Kaptur Architect

Hugh Kaptur and the Palm Springs Desert

In 1962, the public learned of a projected $2,500,000 home development project adjacent to Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs. The proposed development was for the construction of 40 homes. Each home would be a distinctive design by Hugh Kaptur, capturing the architectural freedom that the desert offers. That architectural freedom was exactly what the desert offered.

Hugh Kaptur was one of Palm Springs’ most prolific architects and set the tone the architectural design that embodies the region. He was born in 1931 and studied architectural engineering at the Lawrence Institute of Technology. During a visit to Palm Springs in 1956, he made an inspired spur-of-the-moment decision to stay in the region and make it his home. Hugh Kaptur quickly set up shop and set out to make a name for himself and start a career that lasted over 50 years, designing across many typologies from private and multi-family houses, to civic and commercial buildings.

The exuberance of the 1950’s post and beam spilled over into the 1960’s in Palm Springs with the 1970’s evolving into a more masculine forms of design. Influenced by heavier beams, rougher stucco and the simpler carvings of Mexican traditions, the 1970’s Palm Springs designs were highly adapted to the harsh environment and provided the setting for a rougher bachelor lifestyle, epitomized by William Holden, James Dean and Steve McQueen.

Hugh Kaptur brought the development near Tamarisk Country Club to life with his innovative designs, which were within sight of homes of such notables as Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx, Danny Thomas, Zeppo Marx, Ray Anthony, Hoagy Carmichael and Ellsworth Vines. Word traveled quickly amongst the wealthy Hollywood stars that called Palm Springs home which put Hugh Kaptur and his work in high demand.

His work went on to catch the attention of William Holden (who became fast friends with Kaptur), who wanted a contemporary home and to be able to look over the house and down at the valley. He built the house to exhibit Holden’s extensive art collection and offer strongly delineated exterior spaces. A stunning cantilevered concrete plinth jutted out over the escarpment and made for a dramatic view of the suspended modern sculpture it supported.

Hugh Kaptur would go on to design numerous condominium projects, municipal buildings, fire stations, homes and commercial buildings in Palm Springs, Coachella Valley and beyond.

From the ADG Job Site

Walk the path with the ADG Advantage


by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG


Palm Springs Modernism Week Is Upon Us

Mark your calendars and start channeling your best ‘Rat Pack’ persona! It is time to make your way into the desert and visit Palm Springs in all its splendor. Palm Springs Modernism Week is scheduled for Feb 14-24, 2019, and this annual event will be bigger than ever.

The goal of this retro adventure in the desert is to foster an appreciation of midcentury modern architecture, design and contemporary innovation. Modernism Week is a registered non-profit organization which encourages the preservation, education, and sustainability of modern living as represented in the Palm Springs area. Some of Palm Springs’ most notable private homes will open their doors to the public, and walking tours will shed light on the city’s Rat Pack history. More than 350 other events in this event will engage and entertain visitors.

Moshe Safdie, CC, FAIA will give the keynote address, and it is not to be missed. He is an Israeli-Canadian architect, urban designer, educator, and theorist. His humanistic philosophy on architecture and urbanism focuses on the design of the public realm and creating buildings that celebrate the unique character of each place. He continues to innovate with groundbreaking projects, such as the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in Singapore’s waterfront district, which includes three 55-story towers connected across their rooftops by a three-acre mixed-use SkyPark.

Along with the house tour and the featured Christopher Kennedy Compound open house,  there will be a vintage trailer show. The show will celebrate the vintage trailer lifestyle and inspire those who dream of channeling their inner wanderlust. There will also be films, lectures, premier double-decker architectural bus tours, nightly parties, and live music, along with walking and bike tours, fashion, classic cars, and modern garden tours.

Palm Springs Modernism Week is an absolute must-do for anyone who is excited by all things midcentury modern. Take a walk back in time, channel your best Rat Pack persona, and plan on attending.

From the Factory Floor

Copper wrap light fixtures for Shaquille O’Neal’s new Downtown LA eatery!


by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

southern California, architecture

The Crazy Architecture of Southern California

Southern California is home to the movie capital of the world. Creativity and imagination is what inspires our culture and our economy. The environment of make-believe allows entrepreneurial spirits to create environments and products that allow us to get lost in our imaginations. These inspirations could not be lost on the architectural world in our region. A British traveler noted after a visit to Southern California in the 1930’s that either “we had lost our minds or he had stumbled into a fantasy universe.” So was the influence of mimetic architecture in Southern California.

The practice of mimetic architecture, also known as novelty or programmatic architecture, is a style of building design popularized in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It is characterized by unusual building designs that mimic the purpose or function of the building, or the product it is associated with. Mimetic architecture was particularly popular between the 1920s and 1950s, as cars became widespread and freeways were built across America. Some roadside architecture started to be seen as a means for advertising to passing cars. For example, a roadside restaurant might be designed in the shape of a giant hot dog, a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot, or a fruit stand in the shape of a piece of fruit.

“If, when you went shopping, you found you could buy cakes in a windmill, ices in a gigantic cream-can, flowers in a huge flowerpot, you might begin to wonder whether you had not stepped through a looking glass or taken a toss down a rabbit burrow and could expect Mad Hatter or White Queen to appear round the next corner.”

British tourist visiting LA, 1930’s

From the iconic Brown Derby, to the numerous wigwam hotels that dotted the region, to giant donuts, ice cream and hotdogs, Southern California have been replete with some of the finest examples of mimetic architecture. While none of these buildings were terribly important in the historical value of the region, others were iconic landmarks that will remain etched in our historical memories and evoke the culture and feel of the Southern California lifestyle.

From the ADG Jobsite

Screen Shot 2018 06 06 At 3.32.43 PM

by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting