Yesterday, an artist friend and I were having virtual coffee at his local Burger King when the conversation strayed from painting to the not totally unrelated topic of interior decor. He described the place as, "White laminated plastic surfaces everywhere, lit by a dreadful combination of cold white fluorescent tubes and -unbelievably long *internally sited* neon strips in predominately pale blue with pink neon accents. Those neons make the place as inviting as an abattoir, (and as) comfortable as a fishmonger's marble slab. It makes the place in Hopper's 'Nighthawks' look kinda homey..." He concluded by adding contemptuously, "Modern interior design, queen of the Arts--Hah! Bring back the Bauhaus." I didn't want to burst his bubble by mentioning it at the time, but much of what he describe from his Burger King IS pure Bauhaus. (The Bauhaus, by the way, was German school of architecture, painting, interior, and industrial design operating from 1920 to 1933.)

In the early 1950s, diners (not known as fast food back then) adopted and adapted many Bauhaus design principles to denote a "squeaky clean" efficient look. This was totally at odds with the "greasy spoon" look (and taste) which many lunch spots had at the time, having grown out of the neighborhood bar and grill (not unlike the Cafe Guerbois). In this country, we have an institution men tend to love and women hate called the "White Castle." The place is design to look a little like a white porcelain steel castle, with a small tower, crenelated cornice and all. Inside, the ambiance is a cross between a bus station and an operating room. The burgers are tiny, salty, little squares, paper thin, with minced onion on top, served on cute little square buns (catsup and mustard to taste). They are about three bites each and give you gas big time. And inspite of what I've just described, they are shamefully delicious. People often consume a dozen at a time. I think Burger King use to have something similar called Burger Buddies.

Though White Castle "architecture" is quite a departure from Bauhaus design, the rational has something in common: The world is a dark, dirty place, come inside to our pristine, brightness for a quick, healthy (yeah, sure) lunch; and while you're at it, take home a bagful for dinner. The wife and kiddies will love you for it (cold, greasy little hamburgers?...the kids maybe, but...). Believe it or not, in some neighborhoods, these establishments are treated as something akin to an ethnic culinary SHRINE. And in many neighborhoods, they ARE a sanctuary of cleanliness and even safety in the midst of poverty, crime, and despair. In Columbus, Ohio, there was an old White Castle in danger of being torn down. The local populace revolted, had a big protest rally, and started petitions. In the end, "restaurant" was moved a few hundred yards, restored, and even placed on the register of historic structures, which means it's dubious architecture will be preserved for something like eternity or longer.