oreos and architecture

You may find this hard to believe, but I have found a striking number of similarities between Oreo cookies and architecture. It came to me one day while joking with a fellow faculty member while seeing a package on a student’s desk. At first it was just funny; later it became profound. Now it’s a bit creepy. Ponder this deeply and share with me any other similarities you find between architecture and Oreos. Maybe there are hidden messages to be uncovered here.

  • Figure ground relationship of the parts (black and white, c’mon this one is easy)
  • The success for both is due to the ratio and proportion of the parts (Double Stufs are better)
  • Symmetry
  • Pure geometry
  • A clear blurring of the interior and exterior
  • Both share an origin in the early 1900’s
  • The cookie looks just like an architect’s seal.
  • It is has a registration number (#0093009) just like an architect’s registration number (RA-________ – X)
  • Oreo’s were first introduced by the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco) on March 6, 1912. Daniel Burnham died on June 1, 1912. It was said one of his last ideas was to design a cookie that represented his true ideas about architecture. Perhaps he had an influence that we didn’t know about until now.
  • Oreos have their origin in New York City; much of modern architecture’s origins are in NYC.
  • Oreos were introduced in 1912 to offer to the trade an “entirely new variety of the highest class biscuit in a new style.” Modern architecture was also an entirely new style of the highest class, but it took Philip Johnson until 1932 (twenty years later) to coin the phrase International Style.
  • Philip Johnson’s secret nickname was “cookie.”
  • Le Corbusier was developing his new critical views of architecture at the same time the Oreo was introduced. Coincidence? I submit not.
  • The origin of the name Oreo is unknown, but there are several theories much like the origin of the pseudonym Le Corbusier.
  • Throughout the 1900’s the company tried variations on the original with no success. People have been trying the same with modern architecture since then with the same results.
  • Modern architecture works with the colors black and white. Oreos tried other flavors with the same poor success as when architects stray from black and white.
  • Design, design, design…
photo by Jeremy M. Lange
  • Oreos are sold by the pound. Most clients want to pay for architecture by the pound.
  • And lastly, they’re both sooooo good.

photos of Oreo cookies are from Wikimedia Commons (used under the Creative Common License)

Oreo cookie drawing is from William A. Turnier’s 1952 blueprint for the Oreo cookie – Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Oreo is a trademark for a popular sandwich cookie by the Nabisco Division of Kraft Foods.

oreos and architecture

6 thoughts on “oreos and architecture

  1. “Modern architecture works with the colors black and white. Oreos tried other flavors with the same poor success as when architects stray from black and white.”

  2. Who knew – I think you’re on to a mysterious Pink Floyd-Wizard of Oz-like conspiracy here! Subliminal Oreo consumption among various professions has to be highest in architects.

  3. randydeutsch says:

    Great post.

    Back in the ’70’s, then NYTimes architecture critic, Paul Goldberger, wrote an essay comparing cookies to architecture.

    The 1977 essay “Cookie Architecture” is collected in his book p. 293, On the Rise: Architecture and Design in a Postmodern Age http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Architecture-Design-Postmodern-Age/dp/0140076328/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1321903898&sr=8-10

    While he discusses sandwich cookies, he does not cover the Oreo.

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