Demolition notices were posted July 1st marking the end of an era in Oakland’s “Uptown” neighborhood. The building that for decades housed Biff’s 24 hour diner will be coming down in August to make way for a housing development. While there have been efforts to revive Biff’s and integrate it into the new mix, it was not to be. Biff’s was a classic example of mid twentieth century automobile centered culture (the area where it sits was previously known as “Auto Row”) and so was not a natural fit with the pedestrian/bicycle/mass transit model of present day Oaktown. The building was textbook Googie, an architectural style known for its exaggerated and large-scale shapes easily seen from passing cars. Los Angeles based pop culture humorist and historian has coined the term “carchitecture” to describe such buildings which often were home to diners, donut shops, and car washes.
Built in 1963 by Standard Oil with an adjacent gas station, it speaks to a time when people loved few things more than hamburgers and cars. The concept rendering of the project depicts a bright future, complete with shiny gas station in the background. Architectural renderings make for interesting cultural markers. In an age where people love few things more than technology and smart phones it’s easy to see parallels between Biffs and the epic new tech HQ under construction in Cupertino. R.I.P Biff’s. Tempus Edax Rerum!