Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

The Shape of Lunch

In the late 1990s, when I was working in midtown, I became obsessed with a new sandwich shop on Madison Avenue called Sandbox. Everything at Sandbox was pre-made, presented in bright cases in tidy plastic packages that somehow made the food look fresh rather than stale. The neatly stacked ingredients gave these sandwiches the appeal of an everyday tea party, and made sloppy subs and schmeary bagels unappealing. It was lunch as an industrial design product, as if Dieter Rams were let loose in a deli. A story in the New York Daily News on this so-called phenomenon had the headline “The Layered Look Is Back.”