Exaggerated Modern and Googie

circa 1940's - 1960's

Also known as coffee-shop modern, Googie originated in southern California in the late 1940s. It was designed to attract attention with its flamboyant forms. Motels, coffee shops, bowling alleys, car washes, and a variety of other building types were erected in this style. Some debate exists as to whether Googie is an appropriate name for the style. The style is also called exaggerated modern because it exaggerates the structural components of the building and was ideally suited for commercial strips. It first appeared in the late 1940s and reached its zenith in the mid-1960s. It is characterized by:

  • Exaggerated, sweeping, cantilevered and oversized roofs, and dynamic rooflines
  • Large signs (often neon)
  • Canopies soaring at raking angles
  • V-shaped columns and metal framed angular designs and curvaceous geometric shapes
  • Visual fronts and large sheet-glass windows.
  • Materials include steel, glass, plywood, glass block, plastics, and stone.

Closed Front

Often used for shops where privacy and exclusiveness were needed or desirable, such as high-end boutiques or jewelry stores. Characteristics include:

  • Flat billboard-like front, which obscures view of interior spaces
  • Partitions, curtains, and windowless doors to limit view of interior space
  • Closed front can be at building line or recessed from the building line
  • Closed front can be punctuated with small display windows or cases

Builders Economic House / Minimal Traditional

circa 1945 – 1965

Builders Economic Houses and the Economic small houses were frequently built from mail order plans, kits, and catalogs, such as those made by the Michigan-based Aladdin homes, which offered buyers “redi-cut homes.” These homes were built according to a size, style and price that was most in demand during the period. Minimal Traditional houses represent a composite style that features traditional plans and forms but with minimal decorative details and without the ornamental exuberance of pre-World War II styles. The size and style changed to reflect market trends but the houses shared many of these characteristics:

  • Often built in large-tract housing developments on smaller plots
  • Or small and compact “stand-alone” houses
  • Built of wood, brick, stone, or a mixture of wall-cladding materials
  • Eaves and rake not overhanging
  • Usually one story
  • Traditional designs
  • Small houses
  • Minimal decorative details that evoke historic architectural styles


circa 1953 to mid-1970's

The term originates from the French béton brut, or “raw concrete.” Brutalism was a relatively short-lived architectural movement which reached its apex in the 19060s (although there are plenty of classic examples from the 1970s). Proponents of the style advocated the brutally frank expression of the nature of modern materials. This was often a popular style for governmental and institutional buildings. Characteristics include:

  • Massive weighty buildings, with irregular massing
  • Rough exterior surfaces, unadorned exposed concrete walls
  • Blunt detailing of joints and openings
  • Broad wall surfaces
  • Window openings that are rarely flat with the wall plane, but often either recessed or protruding from the wall plane.

Billboard Architecture

circa 1920's

These are self-identifying buildings that act as a sign or billboard for the business inside, for example a hotdog stand designed to look like a giant hotdog.  Corporations such as McDonald’s expanded on this idea and created signature structures that were easily recognizable and that could be adapted for different climates but that contained the same signature elements, such as a mansard roof or golden arches.


circa 1934 - 1960s

This triangle shaped building design was popularized by Austrian-born architect Rudolph Schindler, who designed a vacation cottage for a client. The design was quickly standardized and adopted as a vacation-type home. A-frame roofs were also seen in other building types such as churches, restaurants, motels, and gas stations. It reached its greatest popularity in the mind-1960s and is characterized by:

  • Low hanging eaves, often at or just above grade
  • A-shaped, steep pitched roof
  • Windows in gable ends
  • Interior ceilings are often open to the top rafters