The last thing we want to do is perpetuate a fast food nation, but there is something fascinating in finding beauty in the grotesque. In this case, it’s unexpectedly interesting architecture housing the antithesis of the greatest Portlandia skit to date. A contradiction in every sense of the word, we’re not celebrating the evil All-American meal and the global health epidemic it’s played a large hand in creating, but only commenting on the power of design should franchised McArchitecture ever be abandoned entirely as a marketing strategy. Case in point: we might actually consider eating at a beautiful McDonald’s.
Call us aesthetic snobs, but subpar standardization permeates this food culture from top to bottom. We can’t help but wonder, what if it didn’t? The fast food of the past 60 years might have looked a lot more like Ferran Adrià’s latest Fast Good in Barcelona.
From a charming adaptive re-use of a Beaux-Arts train station to a lo-fi pop-up to design blog-worthy modernist buildings, click through to check out what fast food architecture could be. Now we just need to get them to revamp the food.
KFC – Keflavík, Iceland
Instead of your average standardized franchise design, PK Arkitektar actually took the austere Icelandic landscape into consideration. The west end of the building is “surprisingly sheer glass, which mirrors the big space and opens the building to the street and sea view.” Image credit: arch daily
Starbucks – Tukwila, Washington
Part of a growing initiative to encourage green building in retail, Starbucks’ new LEED certified Reclamation Drive-Thru is made from the shipping containers they use to transport coffee and tea around their global empire. Image credit: Inhabitat
Arby’s – Downtown Brooklyn, New York
Only in Brooklyn would an Arby’s have an authentic heritage vibe in a historic landmark that once served the likes of Mae West. And, only in the NIMBY mecca that is Brooklyn would the most beautiful Arby’s in the world be forced out just 6 months after opening. Image credit: gothamist
McDonald’s – Villefranche-de-Lauragais, France
Designed by Patrick Norguet after the success of Europe’s McCafe the sleek interiors are an “obvious and pointed move away from traditional stereotyping; another step in the empire’s move to create a high end, family dining facility. With each design update the menu changes and the quality of staffing and food is also uplifted, creating in itself an entirely new dining experience.” Image credit: Interior Design Source
McDonald’s – Budapest, Hungary
Perception is everything: the Beaux-Arts building in an old Hungarian train station makes even a Happy Meal oddly enticing. Fun fact: the building was built by the Eiffel company 12 years prior to their most famous architectural achievement, the Eiffel Tower. Image credit: Guido Merkelbach
McDonald’s – Yangshuo, China
This image walks the line between being beautiful and being a scary reminder of the perils of globalization. Regardless, a McDonald’s in a pagoda next to a scenic bridge overlooking a mountain lake sure beats our friendly neighborhood cookie-cutter version. Image credit: Rupert Mountjoy
Taco Bell – Pacifica, California
Built in the early 70’s, this wooden beach shack version of a Taco Bell overlooks the Pacific Ocean and even has a walk-up window for surfers. Image credit: SF Gate
In-N-Out – Quito, Ecuador
This guerilla In-N-Out is pop-up architecture at it’s finest. Rai Kawakubo would be proud. Image credit: Serious Eats
Hot Tamale – Dillon, South Carolina
An image from a vintage postcard claiming to be ‘The Most Beautiful Fast Food Restaurant in the World’, the Hot Tamale is a shining example of campy design. Random fact: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke worked as a poncho-wearing waiter at this highway amusement park oasis. Image credit: Jordan Smith
McDonald’s – London, England
Upholstered banquettes, wood tables, hanging lamps and Knoll knock-offs abound in London’s antidote to the unpleasant, garish interiors of your average McDonald’s. Image credit: Contemporist