AS AMERICA’S highway system stretched across the landscape in the ’50s, a new, exuberant brand of drive-by design began waving at the cars. From the Streamline Moderne gas stations to shaped-for-their-name landmarks like the former Sandy Jug, historians variously dubbed the style Doo-Wop and Populuxe architecture, or—after one of the earliest roadside diner chains—Googie.

Now, as Portland’s parking lots and empty corners fill up with food carts, a new competition for the eye is blossoming in an equally fun, walk-by “cartitecture.” From a repurposed streetcar to a solar-powered waffle stand (of course) to otherwise plain-Jane carts featuring flourishes of bold color or just a thoughtful, handmade sign, Portland’s haute cart-ure is perfectly tailored for a city the great architect Louis Kahn described (however apocryphally) as "Lilliputian."

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