Dingbat Living is Great

What is a “Dingbat”?   A dingbat (also called a stucco box or a shoebox), is a type of architecturally undistinguished apartment building that flourished in the Sun Belt in the 1950’s and ’60’s. Dingbats are characterized as boxy, two- or three-story apartment houses with overhangs sheltering street-front parking.  While dingbats are widely reviled as socially alienating visual blights, They are currently experiencing a minor sentimental renaissance thanks to the Mid-Century Modern craze, but still, many people find them somewhat less than desirable.

Lesley Marlene Siegel is a Los Angeles native and an artist and a photographer, and she began her series, “Apartment Living is Great”, in the early ’90s, as the photographic documentation of apartment building names, bringing to light their importance in landscape and community history.

Lesley had a show in Australia several years ago documenting her work and they published a 48 page soft cover book that includes over 90 black and white high quality reproductions and an in-depth interview with the artist. Hand-numbered limited edition production of only 1965 world-wide are available at Outre Gallery.

Writer and illustrator Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of BoingBoing.net and past editor at Wired, wrote an excellent article a few years ago in the L.A. Weekly, “HOW I CAME TO LOVE THE DINGBAT“. 

You couldn’t make an uglier building if you tried. Los Angeles is full of dingbats — boxy two-story apartments supported by stilts, with open stalls below for parking. (Their name is likely to have been coined by architect Francis Ventre while he was lecturing at UCLA in the early ’70s.)Thousands of the inexpensive 16-unit structures were built in the late ’50s and early ’60s to accommodate the huge number of people moving to Southern California. Forty years later, the smog-stained, sagging dingbats are still here, and have become as much a part of the LA landscape as medfly traps and on-ramp pistachio vendors.”

Most people assume that these “dingbats” are only an Los Angeles phenomenon, but the interesting thing is they’re all over Seattle!

In Rainier Valley

In Ballard

In Fremont

In Sunset

In Phinney Ridge

In Burien


Seattle has expanded upon the standard Dingbat apartment building, however, and added a few new materials to the vernacular.  Instead of pure stucco (which doesn’t hold up here very well in our wet climate), you’ll find dingbats in Marblecrete (shot through with beautiful sparkles), T1-11 siding, shale and brick. 

More information and photos of Dingbats around the country:

Wikipedia’s take on Dingbats

Flickr set on Dingbats

Dingbat Living
from The Aesthetic

A distant relation to the Dingbat is Googie architecture. Googie is well-known in Southern California, but there are also examples of this cool 50’s iconographic architecture in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Googie Architecture in Seattle

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