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McDonald's goes retro with its new flagship store

May 01, 2005 |

Flanked by super-sized versions of its signature golden arches, the new flagship McDonald's restaurant in downtown Chicago bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor of 50 years ago.

Like Ray Kroc's original 1955 franchise restaurant in the Chicago suburb Des Plaines, the new outlet features dual parabolic arches that intersect a sloped, wedge-shaped roof. Its point-supported glass curtain wall entrance adapts the canted shape of the original metal-framed pick-up windows. And, like the landmark restaurant, red-and-white-striped tiles wrap the base of the building.

Last month's grand opening of the 24,000-sf, two-level restaurant, marked the fast-food giant's 50th anniversary. Located on the corner of Clark and Ontario streets, the restaurant replaces the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's that occupied the site for 20 years before it was demolished in 2004.

McDonald's selected the "space age" retro design over much more daring schemes by several local architects. Helmut Jahn envisioned 100-foot-tall arches that would serve as a gateway for cars and pedestrians entering the site. The concept developed by Martin Wolf of Solomon Cordwell Buenz called for a two-story, oval-shaped restaurant wrapped with a glass-and-steel cage.

Most daring of all was the plan worked up by Daniel Coffey of his eponymous firm. The design placed the restaurant on stilts with a winding, ramped drive-through lane and an amphitheater and park at ground level.

Apparently, McDonald's officials were looking for something more traditional, and the company turned to its in-house design team for a new plan. The final scheme was developed by its architecture director Dan Wohlfeil.

Wohlfeil's design accommodates up to 300 patrons—three times more than a standard McDonald's—and features the company's first two-lane drive-through.

The interior dining areas feature up-scale furniture, including leather chairs designed by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, and five decades of McDonald's memorabilia.

The restaurant includes a few high-tech gadgets, too. The entire building is Wi-Fi enabled, so patrons can surf the web from any part of the restaurant. CD creation stations allow customers to download and copy music onto CDs. And three "interactive" tables display motion-sensitive images that change by movement.

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