The architectural style we all know as Mid-Century Modern has its roots in pre-war Berlin and if you want to follow the logic backwards to the absolute beginning you’ll find Walter Gropius at the headwaters of this design idea as far back as 1919. By the 1930s the cutting edge in architecture and design was Bauhaus modern, with architectural deities Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe (among others) setting the standard for housing, furniture and factory design.
By the early 1960s the language of Mid-Century Modern was part of everyday architectural and product design with adherents, followers and flagrant plagiarists worldwide. About this time the Safeway supermarket corporation had begun using classic form follows function principles – low pitched roof, glass curtain walls – in their supermarket designs and some of the best examples of Mid-Century Modern are still functioning here, every day in California.
The new San Diego Gas & Electric Energy Innovation Center resides in the shell of a classic Mid-Century Modern supermarket built in 1963. The original lines are clean and low-slung. The re-model, completed in January of 2012 by architects Hanna Gabriel Wells, compliments those lines with a classic zig-zag motif popular throughout the modern movement. You can see Zig-Zag Modern in Emil Praeger’s dapper outfield sun-shades at Dodger Stadium (1961), Martin Stern’s fabulous Ship’s Coffee Shops in Los Angeles (1957-61) and in Eldon Davis’ Hope International University in Fullerton (1962) – in other words, all over Southern California.
John Durant – December 2012