The Rise and Fall of Fast Food Architecture



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What happened to McDonald’s? Their restaurants used to be so iconic. It was impossible to mistake one, for say, a Wendy’s. Distinguished architecture used to be an important part of a brand’s identity. But today, fast food restaurant’s all look the same. Bland grey boxes. The great convergence toward this standard has been called ‘Chipotle-ification.’ In this video, we trace the changing restaurant designs of McDonald’s, from the iconic golden arch era to the soulless boxes of today. We break down the architecture and the forces at play in the great homogenization of fast food architecture.

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Architecture with Stewart is a YouTube journey exploring architecture’s deep and enduring stories in all their bewildering glory. Weekly videos and occasional live events breakdown a wide range of topics related to the built environment in order to increase their general understanding and advocate their importance in shaping the world we inhabit.

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Stewart Hicks is an architectural design educator that leads studios and lecture courses as an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and is the co-founder of the practice Design With Company. His work has earned awards such as the Architecture Record Design Vanguard Award or the Young Architect’s Forum Award and has been featured in exhibitions such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Design Miami, as well as at the V&A Museum and Tate Modern in London. His writings can be found in the co-authored book Misguided Tactics for Propriety Calibration, published with the Graham Foundation, as well as essays in MONU magazine, the AIA Journal Manifest, Log, bracket, and the guest-edited issue of MAS Context on the topic of character architecture.

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