Architecture as Advertising in Los Angeles


Here in Los Angeles, cars rule. You've all heard the Missing Persons' song "Walking in LA" - well it's true: nobody walks here. It's just not that kind of town. Never has been. We've always been car-crazy here, especially back when cars were something special. Back in the 1920s, the city's love affair with the car turned into some pretty odd offspring. Roadside business shaped like giant owls, dogs and mushrooms sprouted up. It was easier to see a giant pumpkin than a plain storefront, especially since the customers travelled by car, not on foot. The shape of these buildings conveyed the nature of their merchandise to customers zooming by. Architecture became advertising and roadside stands brought convenience to the car culture. Unlike Chicago or NYC, where shopping was in a central downtown area, LA shopping got spread out as the car became the main way people got around.

Buildings shaped in the form of giant objects became the most memorable landmarks in this car-centric city of ours. Between 1920 and 1940, about 75 such buildings were erected. Though relatively few in number, they certainly helped give this town the flamboyant identity it now has. Beyond that, it influenced future building designs in other new towns, adapting to the car and the motorist.

Hoot Hoot-I Scream 1928-1938

The Dog Cafe 1928-1973

Tail o' the Pup 1946-2006

Wilshire Boulevard Brown Derby 1926-1980

Coca-Cola Company Bottling HQ 1936- present


Taking a page from the past, here's the present-day Chiat/Day Ad agency parking lot gate in Venice, CA, designed in 1991 by Claes Oldenburg