Architectural Definitions for the Mid-Century Enthusiast

I don’t consider myself an expert, just an expert surfer and reader of other blogs. So this past weekend I spent some time putting together a couple of definitions pages. The first is Architectural Definitions for the Mid Century enthusiast. One thing I noticed was sadly lacking when we purchased a mid century home was information. Now there are some enthusiasts, but most are VERY enthusiastic and know everything about the world of architecture in this time period. I always felt sort of stupid asking “what style is my house” or “what is googie”.

So, for the definition impared, here’s what I’ve pulled from various sources around the net, a few mid century shops, wikipedia (which can be totally inaccurate, I know) and from my resources I have around home.

1950’s Architectural Styles :

Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century modern is an architectural, interior and product design form that generally describes pre- and post- second world war developments in modern design, architecture, and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965. Mid-century architecture was a further development of Frank Lloyd Wright’s principles of organic architecture combined with many elements reflected in the International and Bauhaus movements. Mid-century modernism, however, was much more organic in form and less formal than the International Style. Scandinavian designers and architects were very influential at this time, with a style characterized by simplicity, democratic design and natural shapes. Like many of Wright’s designs, Mid-Century architecture was frequently employed in residential structures with the goal of bringing modernism into America’s post-war suburbs. This style emphasized creating structures with ample windows and open floor-plans with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in. Many Mid-century homes utilized then groundbreaking post and beam architectural design that eliminated bulky support walls in favor of walls seemingly made of glass. Function was as important as form in Mid-Century designs with an emphasis placed specifically on targeting the needs of the average American family. Examples of residential Mid-Century modern architecture are frequently referred to as the California Modern style.

Pioneering builder and real estate developer Joseph Eichler was instrumental in bringing Mid-Century Modern architecture to subdivisions in California and select housing developments on the east coast.

Further Reading:

See “Masters of Modernism”
From the National Trust For Historic Preservation:

The “Modernist Manifesto”
What is Modernism 

Googie

Googie architecture (also known as “populuxe” or “doo-wop”) is a form of novelty architecture and a subdivision of futurist architecture, influenced by car culture and the Space Age and Atomic Age. The style is related to and sometimes synonymous with the Raygun Gothic style as coined by writer William Gibson.

Originating in Southern California in the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s, the types of buildings that were most frequently designed in a Googie style were motels, coffee houses and bowling alleys. The academic vein of the school became widely-known as the Mid-Century modern movement, and some of those more notable variations reflect elements of the populuxe asthetic, as in Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center.

 

Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Googie was also characterized by space-age designs that depict motion, such as boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as “soft” parallelograms and the ubiquitous artist’s-palette< motif. These stylistic conventions reflected American society’s emphasis on futuristic designs and fascination with Space Age themes. As with the art decostyle of the 1930s, Googie became undervalued as time passed, and many buildings built in this style have been destroyed.

International Style

The International style was a major architectural style of the 1920s and 1930s. The term usually refers to the buildings and architects of the formative decades of Modernism, before World War II. The term had its origin from the name of a book by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson written to record the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932 which identified, categorised and expanded upon characteristics common to Modernism across the world. As a result, the focus was more on the stylistic aspects of Modernism.

Post and Beam

Post and lintel (synonymous with Post and beam and also called an Architrave is a simple construction technique, also called “post and beam”, where a horizontal member (the lintel—or header) is supported by two vertical posts at either end. This very simple form is commonly used to support the weight of the structure located above the openings in a bearing wall created by windows and doors.

Post-Modern

A term that first appeared in architectural criticism in the 1960s to refer to the end of the unified International style typical of Modernism. In literature, it also designates the period after Modernism, in which historic quotation, pastiche, and the mixing of genres became acceptable. The post-modern rejects unified styles because they embody dogmas, all of which are out-moded.

I posted these on the regular site here: https://www.midcenturystyle.net/architecturalstyles.html – but don’t make this feel like these are set in stone! Please comment if you feel there are corrections or you would tweak these descriptions in any way. What am I missing? I’m working on fleshing all of this out! So help wherever you can!

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