John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Here’s what’s become of the hallowed halls where pie was once slung.
What’s with people’s weird obsession with old Pizza Huts?
Back in 2013, this site profiled Mike Neilson, a photographer in Pittsburgh who made it his mission to doggedly preserve slice shacks turned sub shops, liquor stores, and—in one case—a sex-toy vendor. “I don’t think they are necessarily beautiful buildings," he said at the time, no doubt speaking for the many people who sent him pics from around the world. “But they mean something to us because they are so recognizable. I think that’s why a generation of people who grew up with them feel a nostalgia for them.”
Now come Sydney-based Chloe Cahill and Ho Hai Tran, who are doing the same thing—but who hope to capitalize on it with a Kickstarter-funded coffee-table book. (It would ship inside a pizza box.) Like Neilson, they seem ensnared in youthful fondness for the “Italian” chain, with its greasy discuses, book-reading rewards, and overturned-ship-looking roofs. “The huts, and the memories they evoke, are the inspiration for this series,” says Cahill.
The duo have shot just short of 100 restaurants, traveling through the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand expressly for this purpose. “I took my first photo in late 2013. Since then it has been a matter of finding and planning how best to get to the huts as quickly as possible before they disappear,” says Tran. “There are a couple that we have missed in the past two years—we arrived at the locations to find construction sites.”
Tran and Cahill find the endangered Huts with a combination of Google Maps, Internet discussions, and talking with locals on the road. And for the record, they’re not just documentarians but satisfied customers, too. ”For sure! Pizza Hut is classic and a part of our childhoods,” says Tran. “We have to love it and its history in order for us to create this work.”
Soak in the pizza-hunters’ small selection of bygone huts, now in the business of slinging booze, singing praise, and handling dead bodies: