Barbie is a candy-colored smash! Greta Gerwig’s tribute to L.A.’s favorite doll enjoyed the biggest opening of the year, earning $162 million on its first weekend. Fans turned it into an event, dressing up in their favorite pink confections and enjoying pink cocktails or downing a whole Barbie Brunch. Some 200,000 moviegoers stayed at the theater another three hours for a double feature with Oppenheimer.
Odds are you’ve already seen the movie, but here’s a reason to go back and watch it again. Production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie Spencer were so inspired by Barbie’s birthplace that Barbieland is brimming with nods to the glamorously quirky architecture of midcentury California. Here are a few of our favorites to guide you on a Barbie field trip.
Santa Fe Springs
(1960, Dike Nagano)
Perhaps the googiest of googie bowling signs has outlived its atomic-age lanes and taken a trip over the hill to the Valley Relics museum in Van Nuys. The three-dimensional stars and neon-lit akimbo letters live on at what might be L.A.’s only museum with pinball machines set to free play.
Los Angeles International Airport
(1961, Welton Becket, Pereira & Luckman, Paul R. Williams)
The spider-legged landmark at the center of the “jet age” redesign of LAX in the 60s is an icon of Los Angeles architecture and Historic-Cultural Monument #570. The restaurant inside got a groovy space-age makeover by an ex-Disney Imagineer in the 90s but sits closed today. A USO branch on the ground floor welcomes visiting servicemen.
(1953, Richard Bradshaw, engineer)
Leave it to the engineer who figured out the math that made the Theme Building work to also help craft this giant concrete donut just down the road. Cruise up in your pink Corvette at 3am and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy a hot apple fritter.
Laurel Canyon Car Wash
(1960, Armet & Davis)
The kings of googie architecture, known for Norms, Pann’s and a slew of 1950s coffee shops, tried their hands at a car wash which stood at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Boulevards (look for its cameo in Earth Girls Are Easy) before being demolished in 1990. The massive steel boomerangs lived on in a Sun Valley wrecking yard for decades, and recently joined the collection of the Valley Relics Museum.
San Luis Obispo
(1942, S. Charles Lee)
California’s most famous theater designer said that “The show begins on the sidewalk” and his merry movie houses were dripping with color and light and excitement. You can see his work locally at the Bruin in Westwood and the Los Angeles on Broadway, or take a three hour tour up the 101 to the Fremont in San Luis Obispo where Tim Heidecker and Chicano Batman are hitting the stage this week.
(1946, Richard Neutra)
OK, the real modernist landmark is not painted pink (even though it once received a glittery makeover by singer Barry Manilow). The iconic photo “Poolside Gossip” by Slim Aarons inspired the film’s designers to base all the homes in Barbieland on this restored desert masterpiece. Hop on a tour bus and get a glimpse of the rooftop “Gloriette.”