The Ironic Loss Of The Postmodern BEST Store Facades
In the mid 1970s, the Lewis Family (the owners and operators of catalogue company BEST Products) hired Sculpture In The Environment (SITE) to create a series of facades for nine showrooms across the US. Regardless of the project’s relative financial benefits, the clients gave SITE the one thing all designers crave and fear: full creative reign.
Thus begat the BEST Products Showrooms, an incredible series of architectural commentaries on consumerism that were so in tune with material culture they can easily be simplified as the apex of American Postmodernism. Intrinsically, opinions on whether or not the stores were even “good” range wildly depending on the audience and the speaker, even now, 40 years on.
The BEST stores survived on a combination of this localised charm and a drastically reduced kind of automation for a few more years. By 1983, they had implemented automated conveyor systems and point-to-order technologies to eliminate the cost of human labor. Regardless, the end was near. BEST had withstood thirty years of highs and lows, but what it could not withstand were the unwieldy behemoths of EBay and Amazon.