Smithsonian Magazine's fantastic Paleofuture blog had an entry this week looking at the real-life Southern California Googie architecture that inspired the Jetsons mid-century futurism. Mid-21st-century, writer Matt Novak dubs it. Mr. Spacely's "old fishing cabin," for example, looks like the villain's house in North by Northwest; a floating apartment building mirrors John Lautner's famed Chemosphere house; and many, many buildings look like the Theme building at LAX. "And just as we’ve seen mention of the Jetsons become a kind of shorthand way to talk about the technology of past futures, so too has 'that Jetsons look' eclipsed Googie as the descriptor of choice for people talking about architecture from the futures that never were."
I was thinking about this post, and this idea of futures imagined wrongly, when I saw that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's custom-built Los Gatos home had hit the market. Here was a house designed in part by a guy who helped propel us into the future as it really did come to pass. And while it's not Googie, there are ways in which it too resembles "that Jetsons look."
One thing I've always loved about Jetsons buildings is those walkways or driveways that appear to float. I like how they curve through space in conflict with any known laws of physics. They must be made of some truly futuristic new material to be able to stay up like that.
While flipping through the photos of Wozniak's place on realtor.com, I saw echoes of those same curved space-driveways and magically suspended walking paths in the lines that defined its exterior:
There they are again in the ceiling:
And in the backyard:
Don't get me wrong: I don't argue that Wozniak lives in a secretly Googie house. It's nothing of the kind. Rather, I think it's neat that these futiristic design elements crept into a home whose overall feeling is more natural. If you'll forgive the stretch, it's a little like the inside-outside duality of Eichler homes, with their glass walls. That's another design element Wozniak seemed to like:
I guess the point is that a structure doesn't have to be aggressively futuristic to still include elements of that "mid-21st-century" aesthetic. And in the case of Wozniak's house, even if it doesn't look like a space ship from the future, it's sure to become a time capsule for the past.
Meanwhile, I had so much fun looking at those pictures through Jetsons-tinted glasses that it might be time to re-watch the series, which as we covered in our Winter 2013 issue, has recently been re-released.