Pretty much everyone in Pleasanton is familiar with Pleasant Plaza on First Street in Pleasanton. In a town filled with bland, uninspiring, and forgettable strip malls (think Hopyard Road), Pleasanton Plaza bursts with personality. More importantly, it is one of the best remaining examples of Googie style architecture in the entire Bay Area. For those unfamiliar with the term Googie, it was a form of modern architecture which was popular, especially in CA, from the late-1940s to the mid-1960s for commercial buildings. It was influenced by the Atomic Age, car culture, jets, and space travel. It featured bold angles, colorful signs, plate glass, cantilevered roofs, and pop-culture imagery to attracted drivers. Here is a link for a more detailed explanation of Googie style: Web Link
The signage on the shopping center is especially indicative of the style and its 1961 date of construction. Notice the freestanding “Pleasanton Plaza” sign along First Street with its triangular red supports which point upward like rocket. Also notice the gold “starburst” below the text. These features are highly representative of the Atomic Age and New Frontier era of the early 1960s. The plaza truly captures a moment in time in postwar America when the future seemed limitless and full of bold new ideas. The plaza building itself features the original neon Cole’s sign which is flanked by a football. The signage contrasts nicely with the modern, unadorned wall it is affixed to. The cantilevered awning that spans the Cole’s portion of the building is also in tune with the modern architecture of the period.
I hope Pleasanton values what it has in this shopping center and does something to protect it. It represents not only an increasingly rare form of architecture but also symbolizes a very specific moment in postwar America. Think of the people that grew up visiting the market, barber shop, pharmacy, and burger joint among others. Long live Pleasant Plaza!!