Architecture and Design Museum

Bowlarama: California Bowling Architecture 1954-1964
curated by Chris Nichols
Wilshire Boulevard Location

This first of its kind exhibition looked at the architecture and technology that created a new kind of space-age recreation center and reinvented the sport of bowling in the 1950s. California architects created increasingly lavish pin palaces that included fine restaurants, sumptuous cocktail lounges, and live entertainment under eye-catching roofs and extravagant modern architecture.

The sport of bowling dates back hundreds of years. In the early 20th century, it was a male-dominated sport most often found in the back of shabby saloons. Balls were returned and pins were reset by young men set-up behind the lanes. The widespread use of the automatic pinsetter and other new technologies in the 1950s gave owners the confidence to invest in elaborate new centers in the suburbs that catered to a family audience.

Through rarely seen photographs, drawings, and original artifacts, the Bowlarama exhibition took a peek into this lost world of extreme architecture; looking back at a time when one in four Americans considered themselves bowlers and glitzy 50-lane pleasure palaces were open 24 hours a day.

This exhibition was curated by Chris Nichols. Nichols is a longtime preservationist who has worked to save historic mid-century buildings for 25 years. He is former chairman of the Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee and is currently on the board of Hollywood Heritage. He is an editor and columnist at Los Angeles magazine.

This exhibition was sponsored by Bowlmor AMF, PINZ Bowling Center, International Bowling Industry magazine, and the Bowling Centers of Southern California.