Our friend Dave Cobb of the Thinkwell Group went to brunch yesterday at Norm’s. Of course, he tweeted a photo of the fabulous Norm’s signage. Brilliant, real-life set design. We wrote a little of Norm’s here and more about roadside architecture here. By ‘we’ I of course mean Kathleen.
We both love iconic and original architecture. Especially forward thinking, optimistic architecture that welcomes and acts as a billboard. Call it Populuxe, call it Googie, we don’t really care, but the Mid-Century commercial look always stops us, or causes us to go somewhere to look.
Norm’s is a California Diner chain. Their dramatic look was designed by Armet Davis Newlove Architects formerly just Armet Davis, we’re glad they’re still around and still designing, they are the acknowledged master of the California coffee-shop style. We do love the older work, though. Times change. Clients change.
The Norm’s on La Cienega, near Melrose, was opened in 1957 and is the oldest Norm’s in operation. It is a classic example of the 1950’s Modern American Coffee Shop architecture and won the National Restaurant Association’s design award. Norm’s highly recognized “Saw Tooth” Pennant Sign was designed for the La Cienega Restaurant on a napkin by Norm Roybark and Eldon Davis. The pennant Norm’s sign appears in 13 of out 18 restaurants and it is considered to be ”Googie” in style.
In 1999 the Santa Monica City Council awarded the sign “Meritorious “status, protecting it as a Los Angeles icon.
Today, the “Saw Tooth” Pennant Sign is often out of compliance with planning departments but Norm’s always petitions for any required variances as they build more restaurants.
We’re glad these designs survive and thrive. We’re glad the business seems to thrive and that they pay some homage to the architecture that helped bring success. We’re also happy for the efforts to preserve Mid-Century Modern and increase awareness and appreciation of the style.
We do wish there was a new effort to create new things. Our society has become too beige, too neutral. People and businesses need to make clear choices and take a visible stand on who the are and what they are to the community. Everyday, we read of the loss of originality. Today we read the New York City would be losing Movie Star News. One more step towards the mallification of Manhattan. One more step away from a place that WAS about originality, invention, and diversity.
Of course, we wouldn’t confuse Norm’s Restaurants with Norm’s Music of Brooklyn, even though they are both originals.