Sunday, March 29, 2015

Googie University

The main library of Hope International University was once a student center for CSUF, across the street. Photo ©Darren Bradley

No architectural photo safari to Cal State Fullerton would be complete without stopping by Hope International University. This surprising collection of buildings, located directly across Nutwood Avenue from CSUF, is perhaps the largest collection of googie modernist architecture left in the world. 
Wish I'd moved that bench on the right... Photo ©Darren Bradley

Not only is this an amazing grouping of intact googie buildings, but they were designed by Eldon C. Davis. USC grad Davis, along with partner Louis Armet, founded one of the most renowned architectural firms in LA history. Armet & Davis essentially defined the googie architecture genre in the post-war period. 

dennys postcard
Vintage postcard of an Armet & Davis-designed Denny's Coffee Shop. This design appears throughout the country. The King's Highway restaurant at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs is also a former Armet & Davis Denny's. 
This is the team behind LA icons such as Pann's and Norm's, as well as numerous hotels, bowling alleys, car washes, churches, and other buildings. In San Diego, Armet & Davis also designed the Tiki icon of Humphrey's (originally the Tahitian Restaurant). 

Humphrey's Restaurant
Humphrey's Restaurant in the Tiki Colony on Shelter Island, San Diego. Photo ©Darren Bradley

John Lautner's design for a Los Angeles coffee shop named "Googie's" is the origin of the term. But "googie" has come to reference the futuristic style of modernist architecture that was particularly prevalent from the late 1940s through the 1960s. It is synonymous with the jet age, and perfectly captures the optimism and interest in all things bold and modern of the time period. 

Welcome to the Jet Age
Santa Monica's Civic Auditorium (which is threatened with demolition, by the way) is another classic example of Googie Modernism. Photo ©Darren Bradley

It may seem like this collection of googie buildings in Fullerton would be an odd match for a small evangelical college. It turns out, these buildings were originally designed and built in 1964 to complement the adjacent California State College at Fullerton campus. They included facilities which catered to the students, including a shopping center, a movie theater, a student center, and dormitories. 

The complex is designed to be able to circulate on two levels, with platforms connecting the various buildings. Gaps in the platforms allow views and sunlight below. And yes, I tried to move that damned picnic table but I was alone so no dice. Also, would have preferred people but there was nobody on this side of the campus. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The campus dorms would look right at home in Palm Springs, and include courtyards with swimming pools to lounge around, sipping cocktails while studying. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The complex was eventually sold to Pacific Christian College, which subsequently became Hope International University - a small evangelical college. 

One of the classroom wings. I love those tiered circular stairs. Photo ©Darren Bradley

While now part of a separate school, I did notice a lot of the same students on both campuses, and I believe that some CSUF students even live in these dorms. 

Another view of the dorms at HIU. I was waiting for the person who owns that BMW to come back and move until I saw the ticket on the windshield from the night before, and realized the car was going to be part of my composition. Photo ©Darren Bradley

The buildings appear to be well cared for and almost completely intact - and the peaked roofline of the main library is incorporated into the logo of the school. 


Still, it appears that at least those responsible for the facilities and the grounds have only minimal interest in the architectural style or in maintaining its integrity.  I assume the original light fixtures were also googie, or classic modern globe lamps. But they've all now been replaced by colonial style coach lights of the sort you'd buy at Home Depot. The benches around the campus, the planter boxes, and other furniture and accessories, all seem to be of the cheap, big-box warehouse store variety, too, completely inconsistent with the style. But the good news is that those are all very superficial changes that could easily be remedied, should they desire to do so.

Photo ©Darren Bradley
For photos of my photo safari to CSU Fullerton, click here