These porcelain-enameled steel panels once clad the exterior of Best Products catalogue showroom in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Featuring a cheery floral pattern, they evoke both mass-market chintz textiles and Pop artist Andy Warhol’s silkscreened canvases. The building’s billboard-scale graphics and signage made it highly visible from the roadway — an improbable meadow springing from a suburban parking lot. During the 1970s, Best Products‘ founders commissioned firms like Venturi and Rauch, and SITE (Sculpture in the Environment) to design architecturally novel, often whimsical showrooms that set the chain apart from its competitors.
The ornamental big-box store exemplifies the postmodern architectural concept of the “decorated shed,” introduced by Venturi and Scott Brown — Robert Venturi’s firm with his wife, Denise Scott Brown — (with co-author Steven Izenour) in Learning from Las Vegas, their influential 1972 text on the built environment. The decorated shed describes any generic structure that relies on applied ornament and signs to convey its purpose.
Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.