The familiar yet distinctive sight of NORMS’ architecture at its La Cienega, Slauson and Whittier locations in the Los Angeles area conveys a deliberate design that clearly reflects the American culture of the time in which it was built.
When “Googie”, or Populuxe, architecture emerged in the 1950s, it was intended to look futuristic. Influenced by car culture, jets and the Space Age, Googie architecture is characterized by bold shapes, and large expanses of glass and neon. Though Googie takes its name from another coffee shop in West Hollywood that no longer exists, NORMS remains one of the most iconic and often cited Googie examples.
Victor Newlove, in his interview for the Getty Research Institute’s exhibition Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990, points to NORMS as “one of the best designs that they ever did back in the 50s.” A seasoned L.A. architect, Newlove helped design NORMS back in the early 50s. Restaurants in that style, he explains, were built to be inviting to whoever was walking or driving by. NORMS took it a step further by creating an “automobile showroom” type restaurant, so passersby could see exactly what they might be missing out on. This, along with the bucket seat booths, which Newlove designed, catered specifically to the car culture of L.A. Rather than hoping someone would happen to stop, NORMS’ unique design made it impossible not to be intrigued by what was inside.
“It was quite successful, and the designs were full designs,” Newlove says. “You wanted to come into the restaurant.”