Friday, July 14, 2006

The Doo-Wop Motels

By day, I am an architect that restores historic buildings. To most people this means quaint Victorians, civic monuments and places where famous people once worked or slept. In reality, the spectrum of historic architecture is broad and very subjective, and includes properties that are surprisingly recent. For example, if you grew up in a 1950s post war ranch house and that subdivision is intact, it may be eligible for landmark status. It is the recent past that interests me as much or more than the Queen Anne mansions. We've got thousands of fine examples historic homes and important civic buildings, but how many 1940s white ceramic Texaco gas stations are left? What was once a symbol of American progress and the freedom of the open road has vanished.

In the New Jersey Wildwoods, a stretch of distinctive 1950s era motels is threatened by encroaching beachfront development. The land has simply become too valuable for the independent motel operators to resist selling. Now I'll be the first to say that the Doo-Wop Motels are not as important to our cultural heritage as our civil war battlefields (some of which are threatened by big box retail and cookie cutter residential sprawl), but they do represent an era of bustling post-war euphoria and a distinctive period in graphic and architectural design. And the few that are left appear to be remarkably well-preserved. Similar to the Googie Style of 1950's California coffee shop architecture, Doo-Wop is represented by zoomy shapes, space-age imagery, bold colors and graphics that symbolize the exuberance of the post war period. It was an era when buildings in commercial districts and vacation spots looked like the finned, chrome laden automobiles that ruled the roads. To many people, it's a garish, dated look that should be erased from our landscape. But unlike the doo-wop classics forever preserved on record, once these buildings are gone, they're gone. You can't walk into a photograph. There is no reason why a meaningful grouping of these buildings can't be saved, like the Art Deco District in Miami, for example. The area can remain economically vibrant without resorting to non-descript condo development.

Got Googie in your neighborhood? Take a photo, because it may not be long for this world. Send me the pic and I'll post it. And if you are near the Wildwoods, go check out the Doo-Wop motels.

Link: Asbury Park Press 7/8/06

Link: DooWop Usa

Music: I Only Have Eyes For You - The Flamingos

Buy: Ultimate Doo-Wop Collection



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you find it? Interesting read film editing classes

7:14 PM  

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