Found Building: Googie Architecture in Charlottetown, PEI

In Architecture, Canada by Lenore NewmanLeave a Comment

I’m busy gathering a great many interesting food stories here on the road, but they need some digesting (see what I did there?) so instead I want to post about a neat “found building” here in Charlottetown, PEI. I hit Charlottetown really road weary, covered in camping grit, and generally not in the mood to be doing fieldwork in a freakishly cold and rainy area of the globe. My mind was elsewhere, until I swung onto University Avenue and was greatly cheered to see the Peter Pan Drive-In, which is a wonderful and improbably functioning example of googie architecture.

Googie architecture was a style of construction that  drew on futuristic visions of the space age in the late 1940s through to the mid 1960s. Originating in Southern California, googie is often associated with automobile dominated landscapes, and was popular with the builders of suburban food outlets, particularly drive ins. The term comes from the name of a sadly vanished coffee shop in West Hollywood. Googie architecture is brightly coloured, uses swooping rooflines and glass walls, and embraced neon and futuristic starburst patterns to draw the eye. Googie was, at the time, part of a world of the future, where prosperity meant the automobile, and a landscape configured away from the downtown core.

Googie architecture hasn’t been highly valued, so most examples are now gone; this strange remainder has a lovely swooping roof design and good use of glass. Googie was meant to be viewed from the car, and was designed to draw the eye from a distance. Googie is of interest to my work, as it represents a transition between the neon-lit diner of the downtown core of the 30’s to our modern strips of fast food outlets in “power centres”.  This little hold-out of an architectural past cheered me up, though I wouldn’t mind if the weather was a little more like Southern California as well!


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