Text and Image Photography

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Programmatic Architecture

Car Wash Sign

Programmatic architecture in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The following is from The Book of Signs, a book I wrote, which was never published:

Along with America’s quest for bigness, came innovation–sign and building all in one. One of these types of architecture’s most revered monument is “The Coffee Pot.” It began when the highway being built finished up on the East coast and headed west. It was Carl Fisher’s Roaring Twenties dream—to build a highway that would traverse the United States. Without a well-traveled highway, no signs of great size could have been built.
Fisher imagined the road—first named the Lincoln Highway– could be built inexpensively if the communities along the route would pitch in by paving it with small rocks. Model Ts (of the Ford variety) would be able to cross the United States in time for the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915. The highway was never finished but it laid the foundation for bigger and better ideas—highways made of concrete– for the growing numbers of cars and the roadside businesses that with their mammoth signs that would soon follow.

Along the Lincoln, buildings that served as signs in and of themselves– programmatic architecture sprouted along the roadside. One of the first was The Coffee Pot, a lunch stand in Pennsylvania. It served the purpose of providing an image for the text printed upon it by being built a shape that people would want to stop and see.

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