Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Let's now consider the "postmodern design hellscape" of The Cheesecake Factory

Photo: Peter Dench/Getty Images
Photo: Peter Dench/Getty Images

California’s Winchester Mystery House is said to be haunted, its bizarre architecture full of nonsensical room layouts and stairs to nowhere the result of a ghostly curse laid on its builder, Sarah Winchester. The (very shakily established) legend states that the deaths brought about by the source of the Winchester’s fortune—the highly popular firearm bearing their name—resulted in the need to confuse spectral pursuers with elaborate architecture.

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What, then, do we make of The Cheesecake Factory?

Appropriately identifying the restaurant chain as “a fully immersive ‘postmodern design hellscape,’” Max Krieger has taken to Twitter in an attempt to trace the post-1992 work of “hospitality designer Rick McCormack.” Perhaps, through his efforts, we may find an answer.

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Krieger starts with the baffling introduction presented to visitors of his local establishment, a mix of discordant building styles topped with an onion dome meant, very confusingly, to suggest diners are about to experience a meal inspired by ... the Eastern Orthodox Church?

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The interior is given plenty of attention, too. Described as “a world of aesthetic chaos,” Krieger details a garish, nonsensical laboratory of international design where what emerges is a frightening chimera with the head of pseudo-Egyptian “Orientalism run amok” and the feet of, for some godforsaken reason, “French limestone floors.”

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The thread leaves no aspect of the restaurant unexamined, highlighting the menus (“the most intentionally obtuse culinary document I’ve ever seen”) and, of course, the oddly forlorn cheesecakes, relegated to a corner of the building (“The namesake dish feels utterly inconsequential by the time you reach it. Perhaps it meant something once.”).

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His final tweets drive home the point, extrapolating the cultural despair underlying a highly specific Fear And Loathing book never written.

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It’s a good point that makes an awful lot of sense, but the precedent set by the Winchesters offers a strong counterargument. The Cheesecake Factory’s designers must be trying to avoid a ghostly curse, disorienting their ghoulish stalkers by taking them on a frantic tour of the world in single glances around a room. Let us wish them peace.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.

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