Remember how in last year’s post-apocalyptic Tom Cruise sci-fi movie Oblivion, Tom and some English actress lived in a gleaming glass and steel box that looked like an Apple Store on top of a tower? In the future, everybody will live and shop in nothing but Apple Stores.
For example, from 1970 to 2012, this was the Ralph’s supermarket on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. It wasn’t much, but then it was a grocery store, so what did you expect?
Then Kroger, of which Ralph’s is a subsidiary, tore it down and put up a new improved Ralph’s supermarket. Now you can buy your Cheerios in what looks like a two-story Apple Store (because nothing makes grocery shopping simpler than an escalator):
Did Steve Jobs singlehandedly bring back Shiny Box Modernism?
Did we forget why we got tired of it the first time? Did they invent some new window-washing robot that makes it affordable to keep it looking spiffy?
One odd thing about Ventura Blvd., however, is that a supermarket looking like an Apple Store is actually a locally sensitive retro throwback to the venerable indigenous architectural style of the San Fernando Valley, Googie.
Right down the street from the Ralph’s is Philip Duell’s 1949 Casa de Cadillac:
The Southern California Googie architects like John Lautner and Wayne McCallister, who built the famous Bob’s Big Boy drive-in on Riverside Blvd. in 1949, never got many academic kudos because they were designing fantasy buildings for a middle class car culture liberated by 1940s prosperity.
In contrast, in 1949 architect Philip Johnson built himself a glass house in New Canaan, CN:
Granted, glass boxes are stupider things to live in than to buy Cadillacs or cheeseburgers in, but Johnson was a socially elevated gay man with strong connections to the European art world (largely Nazi, but that didn’t seem to matter to his enduring reputation).
Here’s Across Difficult Country’s obituary for Johnson, inventor of the Cee-Throo Tool Shed.
I can recall in 1981 picking up a copy of People Magazine from a friend’s coffee table and idly flipping through it until I came upon a story about how famous architect Philip Johnson had developed the anti-social habit of vandalizing his neighbor’s houses by throwing stones through their windows, until his neighbors, provoked beyond all patience, taught him a lesson by smashing his dwelling. “Wow, that’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever read,” I said. “I sure hope it’s true.”
The only hint on the Internet that I can find that I didn’t hallucinate that memory is this 1981 Harvard Crimson story about a panel discussion among famous architects:
Johnson added that only the Harvard Lampoon suffered by printing an article in the People Parody that said his famous glass house was wrecked after he threw stones.