Iconic Modern and Googie Architecture

These are some of the classic examples of Modern and Googie Architecture by the architects whose work we've come to love and admire.

LAX Theme Building

Location: Los Angeles International Airport

Architect: Pereira & Luckman

Built: 1960–1961

Officially known as the Theme Building, this iconic Space Age structure was influenced by “Populuxe” architecture and is an example of the Mid-century modern design movement later to become known as “Googie“. Much of the credit for its design goes to African-American architect Paul Williams, a member of the design team at the Pereira & Luckman architectural firm. Constructed near the beginning of the Space Age, the building is an example of how aeronautics and pop culture, design and architecture came together in Los Angeles.

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The Guggenheim

Location: Manhattan, NYC

DesignerFrank Lloyd Wright

Designed: 1943-1944


Officially the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, this architectural gem, seems to slowly swirl towards the sky like a whirling dervish. It was the last major project designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright, opening to the public in 1959, six months after his death, making it one of his longest works in creation along with one of his most popular projects. Completely contrasting the strict Manhattan city grid, the museum’s organic curves are acknowledged as one of the most spatially beautiful works of modern architecture.

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TWA Flight Center

Location: Terminal 5, John F. Kennedy Airport, Queens, NYC

Architect: Eero Saarinen and Associates

Completed: 1962

In its heyday, the terminal for Trans World Airlines at JFK was known as the “Grand Central of the Jet Age” for its status as the epicenter of the golden age of air travel. It was designed to mirror the shape of a bird with its wings spread. Falling into disrepair and abandoned for 18 years, the structure was restored, updated and reopened in 2019 as a hotel allowing visitors to once again experience this mid-century marvel. It is part hotel, part museum, and full Googieness. When in NYC, make a sojourn (it takes a while to get there) to see this incredible transformation and have a vintage-inspired cocktail in 'Connie', an airplane turned cocktail lounge out on the tarmac.

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Seattle Space Needle

Location: Seattle, WA

Architect: John Graham & Company

Completed: 1961

One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the Space Needle is a Pacific Northwest icon built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle, WA, also known as the Century 21 Exhibition. Its theme was “The Age of Space”, and was designed to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations.

A sketch of the Space Needle that Seattle hotel executive Edward “Eddie” Carlson scribbled on a napkin famously became the Century 21 Exhibition’s—and one of America’s—most enduring icon.

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Marina City Chicago

Location: Chicago, IL

Architect: Bertrand Goldberg

Completed: 1964

Marina City’s striking, corn cob-shaped towers were a radical departure from the boxy high-rises that were common at the time. The concept for a mixed-use complex with residences, office space, retail, and entertainment was groundbreaking when it was first conceived back in the 1960s. The design approach was to design a “city within a city” that could fully accommodate people’s everyday needs and activities just a short distance from their homes. It was a method of bringing suburban commodities and ease of access to an urban setting. It was also the tallest reinforced concrete building in the world at the time of completion. Does that make it Brutalist?

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Architect: John Lautner

Completed: 1960

The Leonard J. Malin Residence, also known as the “Chemosphere” was designed by the great architect, John Lautner, who is also famous for designing Googie’s Coffee Shop from which the term Googie Architecture was derived. An iconic building representing modern design, the Chemosphere is an octagon perched atop a twenty-nine-foot high, five-foot-wide concrete column like a flying saucer on a stick, hovering over a steep hillside. This residence is recognizable even to those who know nothing else about mid-century architecture.

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Washington Dulles International Airport

Location: Washington, DC

Architect: Eero Saarinen and Associates 

Opened: 1962

Eero Saarinen, imagined a jet-age world and wanted to create something more than just another airport – he wanted to find “the soul of the airport”. Highly regarded for its graceful beauty and suggestion of flight, Washington Dulles International Airport highlights the designer’s reputation for designing innovative forms, revealing his great sculptural imagination.

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