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New Angle: Voice

Mar 14, 2022

Who hasn't had a burger and fries at a Denny's or Bob's Big Boy?  There are thousands of them, not just in Los Angeles, where they were born, but across the country.  These family restaurants are core to how America defined itself after World War II. Cars, families, space flight, modernism....the new world order.... And who defined that fun and futuristic look?  Our pioneering LA woman architect: Helen Fong.  

She was born in 1927 in Los Angeles Chinatown where her immigrant parents ran a laundry that she often worked at as a child.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was still intact, and you can imagine this presented many challenges for Helen as she grew up.  

She went on to create some of LA’s most iconic diners, which are still celebrated by legions of fans.  These landmarks have cemented their place in pop culture.  Strip malls and roadside attractions, driving with the top down, hair blowing in the wind and another day of sunshine.  

Helen’s design work helped create this image, yet many don’t know the story of the woman who they have to thank.  On today’s episode:  Fast Food and Radical Rooflines: Helen Fong Shapes Los Angeles Coffee Shops.

Special thanks in this episode to Hadley Meares, Victor Newlove, Barbara Bestor, Jim Poulos, Annie Chu, Phoebe Yee, Chris Nichols, John English, and Ginny Glass.  

This podcast is produced by Brandi Howell, with editorial advising from Alexandra Lange.   New Angle Voice is brought to you by the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, with support from Knoll, a MillerKnoll company and SOM.