Chili Bowl was a southern-California chain of restaurants whose buildings were shaped like chili pots. This is an example of mimetic architecture (sometimes called programmatic or vernacular architecture): buildings shaped as things. Jim Heimann offers a concise history of the Chili Bowl in his book, California Crazy & Beyond:
Chili Bowl owner Arthur Whizin [ed. note: Oh that name] was the consummate programmatic entrepreneur. Starting in 1931 Whizin managed to open several Chili Bowls a year, completing twenty-three within a decade. His popular cafes had a loyal following and to further promote them he sponsored a baseball team, raffled rides on the Chili Bowl airplane, and advertised his restaurants on a speedboat which crossed the Catalina Channel laden with Fanchon and Marco showgirls. (p. 64)The back of this matchbook cover illustrates Whizin's pride in the design of his buildings, warning all would-be copy-cats, "building design protected." Despite the initial success of the chain, though, Chili Bowl could not survive the economic hard times wrought by World War II. Those few Chili Bowls that survived now have been repurposed; one is a rib joint. The other sells noodles.
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