White Towers by Paul Hirshorn
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Today's dominant fast-food franchises spend millions to persuade us thatthey do it all for us, that we can have it our way. White Tower, the pioneeringhamburger chain founded in 1926, never felt the need for this kind of advertising;it depended on its instantly recognizable building to say it all. Those gleamingwhite ("clean"), well-lighted ("always open"), streamlined("fast and efficient"), human-scaled ("friendly") structureswere three-dimensional billboards for their franchise, capped by an actual whitetower often redundantly labeled, in bold graphics, "White Tower." This wasbranding before the age of branding. The photographs in this classic book not onlytrace the evolution of a restaurant chain, they record an iconography of a part ofthe American built environment that no longer exists. In an approach very much inthe spirit of Learning from Las Vegas, by Venturi, Scott Brown, and Izenour, architects Paul Hirshorn and Steven Izenour have selected photographs taken in avariety of styles--from the stark and deadpan to family album-like snapshots. In anaffectionately written introductory essay, Hirshorn and Izenour describe theidentifiable and idiosyncratic commercial architectural style of the 1930s and 1940sand document the development of the White Tower buildings and their stylisticvariations. Their conversations with former White Tower employees--including CharlesJohnson, White Tower's architect for over forty years--are the source of manytelling quotations and entertaining captions that set their analysis of thebuildings within a broader story of corporate culture, mass marketing, and the riseof franchising in the twentieth century.
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