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What Is Mimetic Architecture?

This Novelty Architecture Will Make You Giggle


This McDonald's restaurant in Orlando, Florida is shaped like a basket of French fries.

Mimetic Architecture: This McDonald's restaurant in Orlando, Florida is shaped like a basket of French fries.

Photo © Jackie Craven Office building for Longaberger Company, shaped like a wooden basket, top floors in detail

Detail of Longaberger Building in Ohio. Photo ©David Becker, loyaldefender2004 flickr.com, Creative Commons 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Definition:  Mimetic, or mimic, architecture is a programmatic approach to building design. Buildings are shaped to mimic, or copy, their function or to suggest objects associated with their function.

The mid-twentieth century was the heyday of mimetic architecture. Commercial buildings were designed to catch the attention of potential customers. A coffee shop might be shaped like a coffee cup. A diner might be painted to resemble a hot dog. Even the most inattentive passerby would know instantly what was featured on the menu.

Example: One famous example of mimetic architecture is the Longaberger Company corporate headquarters in Ohio, more commonly known as the Basket Building. The company manufactures baskets, so the architecture of the building becomes a way to promote their product. 

Mimetic architecture is just one type of Roadside Architecture, or Novelty Architecture, that evolved in the United States during the 1950s. Other types of Roadside Architecture include:

Also Known As: Programmatic architecture, American Roadside Architecture, Novelty Architecture

Common Misspellings: Memetic, mimmetic

Is mid-20th century architecture historic? Share your views!

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