Rome Travel Guide

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Friday, August 1, 2014

"Googie" architecture: in Rome

If you've spent time in Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, or even Seattle, you'll have some knowledge of "googie" architecture, even if you don't know the name.  Associated with the 1950s, the style features a futuristic feel, produced by sharp and odd angles, sweeping arches, boomerang and pallette
Gas station, Los Angeles
shapes, zig-zag lines, and atom motifs.  In Los Angeles, where it took its name from "Googies," a coffee shop designed by modernist architect John Lautner, it is usually found in gas stations, fast food restaurants, and coffee shops, though there's a superb example at LAX, the city's main airport, where the Theme Building, completed by Pereira and Luckman architects in 1961, greets visitors with its space-age glow.

Italy had its boom years, too, but it didn't participate with quite the same intensity in the catalysts of the googie moment--the space age and the era's car culture--and so outstanding examples of the style, especially in Rome, are few.  In fact, the word "few" may overestimate.  Still, googie enthusiasts might have some success in the San Giovanni area, easily accessed by the Metro, where a construction boom in the 1950s and 1960s yielded several buildings with some relationship to Googie.
Garage, Metronio Market
Back of Metronio Market
Two are on via Magna Grecia, a major thoroughfare running south from the San Giovanni Metro stop.  As you walk south, the first you'll come across is Ricardo Morrandi's Metronio Market.  Its outstanding feature is the playful circular garage, but the two long sides of the triangular facade are also of interest, with their accordion-like window treatments.  The market opened in 1957.

Piccadilly Hotel, once a movie theater

Another, a bit further along, is the lower facade of what is now the Piccadilly Hotel, and was once a movie theater: the googie is in the dark forms which bore the name of the cinema and in the multi-angled canopy below. (The closed cinemas are the protagonists in an Italian film, "Fantasmi Urbani: Inchiesta sui cinema chiusi da Roma" - "Urban ghosts - An investigation into Rome's closed cinemas". You can see a trailer on YouTube - look for hints of googie.)

Across the street, still on via Magna Grecia--perhaps across from the market--you'll see a 1960-vintage apartment building, sandwiched between two structures in the more-familiar neo-classical style.  The angled balconies participate in the "googie" mode.

Not the best photo for this purpose. The "pallette" ceiling
is upper left.  

Continuing south on via Magna Grecia, turn right on via Gallia.  In the second block, on the left side of the street, just past the church, is Bar Clementi.  It's a great place for a coffee--it was our regular coffee bar for two months--and one doesn't have to pay extra to sit down.  And while you're there, note the pallette-shaped ceiling, right out of a googie textbook.  Ceilings such as this one, which invoke the space age, are quite common in Rome bars.

Angled balconies, via Gallia

Exiting Bar Clementi and continuing west on via Gallia, you'll find another set of cleverly angled
balconies.  Another tribute to googie.


A hint of "googie" in the shape of the shields for the lettering
of a dancehall, "Stellarium," in Appio Latino, 2008

Rear of the Appio Latino dancehall, with its mushroom roof

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