Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Googie Wonderland: Palm Springs, California's Visitor Center

They've got lots of cool architecture books inside.

I would have loved to have gotten a fill-up here, back in the day.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a better location to view fabulous Mid-Century Modern architecture than Palm Springs, California. When stars like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley made Palm Springs their desert retreat, they hired big-named architects to build them wild and wonderful futuristic showpieces. The town was so architecture-conscious that even something as ordinary as a gas station was given the full Googie treatment. This is the case with the former Enco gas station on Highway 111, which is the current location of the Palm Springs Visitors Center. Designed by architects Albert Frey and Robson Chambers and built in 1965, it is a magnificent mid-century marvel, with a hyperbolic paraboloid roof that would be the envy of George Jetson. It sits at the entrance to Palm Springs and lets you know this town is a ring-a-ding-ding clambake. Out of business by the early 1990s, its fate seemed destined for the wrecking ball until it was rescued, first by investors who turned it into an art gallery, and then by the town who treated it to a $500,000 restoration. What a beautiful place this is and how great Palm Springs was to recognize it before it was too late. It's a gasser, man, a real gasser.