Food Cart City

Li’l Googies

Designed to be seen

August 17, 2010 Published in the September 2010 issue of Portland Monthly

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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