Rotterdam’s ‘ugliest building’ turned into sleek McDonald’s branch

Transparency was a key concept in the design, communicating that "McDonald’s is for everyone."

October 12, 2015 |
Rotterdam’s ‘ugliest building’ turns into sleek McDonald’s branch

The design team wanted to reactivate the building's function as a hub by increasing transparency in its design using glass and perforated panels. Photos via Google Maps.

Since the 1960s, residents of the Dutch city of Rotterdam have been bugged by an unsightly cigar shop on Coolsingel, one of its busiest streets.

Years passed, and the eyesore welcomed a new tenant, the U.S.-based fast food chain McDonald’s.

For 45 years, the branch continued to operate in the dated building until finally it received a much needed facelift earlier this year, designed by Mei Architects.


The original building


According to Dezeen, the original glass building, attached to a much older post office, was voted by Rotterdam’s residents as the ugliest structure in the city, and local officials were ready to demolish it. But McDonald’s still had 40 more years on the lease—the redesign route was taken instead.

"Since the 1970s the McDonald's pavilion has been altered frequently. Its quality suffered as a result, with its mostly closed facades. This makes the space anonymous. We want to activate this space again," the design studio’s founder, Robert Winkel, told Dezeen.

The resulting structure is a rectangular glass building with a perforated golden façade, and sleek, white grand spiral staircase. Etched to the façade is pixelated imagery of a crowd, responding to the restaurant’s bustling site. The new building was also detached from the post-office, making it seem more like a pavilion.


The building is now separated from the much older post office edifice, making the restaurant more like a pavilion. The golden perforated panels depict a pixelated image of a crowd.


Transparency was a key concept in the design. The color-to-ceiling window idea from the original building was kept.

"The transparency and openness, as well as the depicted crowd on the facade panels, emphasize that McDonald's is for everyone, for every Rotterdam resident," Mei Architects' Marloes Koster tells AdFreak.

Onlookers can glimpse into the kitchen as well as get a hint of the grand staircase. By day it reflects sunlight, and the building maintains its glow when sun falls.

"As McDonald's is open day and night, 24/7, its appearance after dark is important," the team told Dezeen. "By day the building is inviting to shoppers, while in the evening it glows to attract the nightlife crowd."

AdWeek reports that the building won an Iconic Award 2015 prize for excellence in architecture and design.

Visit Dezeen for more images of the finished building.

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